Farmers across Canada have been adapting to the new normal with the help of social media platforms. After the closures of farmers’ markets due to COVID-19, many farmers in Ontario have taken to social media to spread the word of their crops and products available.

Farms in Ontario now use social media features, such as Instagram stories and Facebook posts and videos to spread the news of safe, new, ordering processes, which can be completed by email or phone and through online shops, as well as information about where to purchase local produce.

For example, Willowtree Farms, an hour’s drive northeast of Toronto, held a Drive-Thru Rhubarb Festival at the end of May. Customers picked up pre-ordered rhubarb bundles and enjoyed a drive through the farm reading signs to learn about crops and machinery used on the farm. They have also been offering online ordering and contactless pickup service since March.

York Region’s York Farm Fresh organization has been actively sharing their members’ information on how they are serving their customers with a website page and active Instagram and Facebook posts.

Josmar Acres in Linden is advertising their upcoming “you pick” strawberry harvest on Facebook using a video shot in their strawberry patch.

Farmers in Northern Ontario are embracing social media too. Using Facebook, Northern Ontario Farm to Table and Buy Algoma Local sites have sprung up as a way to connect farms to the public.

As some farmers’ markets remain closed or have limited the number of customers admitted at once, farmers face a specific challenge. These markets are an important channel for many to sell crops but lower consumer traffic has forced some farmers to weigh the costs of attending markets against their financial margins. Social media promotion could be a cost-effective solution for those farmers who are unable to attend markets.

Large markets, such as the St. Catharines Farmers Market, would, under normal circumstances, be a significant vendor of fresh local foods; however, the market was forced to shut down for a time. It reopened on May 23 on a smaller scale than before—Saturday mornings, with produce vendors only—but with an added curbside pickup option.

DeVries Fruit Farm in Fenwick, Ontario, immediately addressed the challenges they faced when COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in March. An Instagram post from that time states, “This unfortunate turn of events impacted our business greatly. All of the local farmer’s markets we attend are closed until further notice!”

With an abundance of apples, they took to social media to advertise their online shop that allowed customers to order and pay online, followed by a contactless pickup from their farm.

The gradual reopening of Ontario businesses has prompted some farmers’ markets to open with required safety measures. To find out more details about your local farmers market in Ontario, check out the Farmers’ Markets Ontario website. They have a comprehensive list of all farmers’ markets in the province.

Limited access to markets poses challenges for farmers as they are under pressure to sell their crops while they are fresh and safe for consumers. But, Ontario farmers, like farmers and producers across the country, are resilient, resourceful, and innovative.

With COVID-19 disrupting our access to Ontario’s food bounty, it is encouraging to see farmers and producers embracing new marketing channels such as social media. Online shopping technology like Shopify and social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are providing a great opportunity for farmers to connect with consumers directly and to educate their communities about the importance of farming and spread the word about safe ways to support local farmers.

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