How has the COVID-19 pandemic
affected your business?
The biggest thing for us was our concern
with the labor situation. But here in
packing we made masks available, and
we did the things we felt would keep our
employees safe. The biggest impact that
we have seen though has been economic
impact from the sales end on onions for
this year. Our farm is a smaller farm in
terms of onions. We’re not a major shipper
to grocery store chains. We modeled
ours to sell for fund raisers and online
sales. Fundraisers have been greatly
impacted. We have probably had half of
the customers that we have been doing
business with 10, 15, 20, 30 years that
were not able to do a fundraiser this year
because their school was closed or their
civic organization was concerned about
sales through door to door contact. So,
they, in a lot of cases, just canceled their
fundraiser for the year. That's a very direct
impact on our sales. Individual online
sales have been probably up a little bit
over a normal year with the exception of
gift orders. We had one customer that
normally buys and sends gifts–probably
150 packages in a year–to their customers.
They called and said, 'We’re sorry but
we’re not going to do it this year because
most of our customers are working from
home now, and we don't have all their
home addresses for the delivery.’ So they
were just afraid of the problems it would
create. And it’s completely understandable.
We saw that coming and picked up some
different avenues to market them, so we’re
going to be able to move all of our onions.
But it's just been a kind of a hair-raising,
problem-solving year on moving them.
What have you learned to appreciate
during this pandemic?
You just kind of appreciate the freedom to
move around and do what you want to do
and be able to go out to eat without putting
a mask on your nose, you know. We were
informed by the Department of Homeland
Security that we’re an essential industry,
so we’re supposed to work like we’ve been
working. People got to eat, that’s the truth.
So as far as from the work end of it, we
haven’t changed a lot there. But as far as
lifestyle, or personal lifestyle, it’s a lot more
difficult to go get a bite to eat. Southerners
tend to be, on the average, huggers or
hand-shakers. Who wants to worry about
shaking hands with somebody? I guess
you just learn to appreciate not having to
worry about those kind of things more.
And I think we’ll probably get back to that
maybe, at some point. I also appreciate that
we are fortunate to be in an area that we’re
not heavily impacted. As bad as we think it
has been here, we haven’t been impacted
anywhere like urban areas. So, you know,
I’ve always said I enjoyed living in the
country–I appreciate it a lot more now.
What are your hopes for the future?
I hope we get back to what we consider
normal, you know. I hope that folks
don’t get to the point that they think
they can’t have the types of relationships
that we’ve always considered part of our
southern hospitality. You want to be able
to slap people on the back or give them
a hug without worrying about catching
something, you know. I hope we get back
to that and kinda get over this deal. I think
this will pass.
How has this made you stronger?
It learns you to roll with the punches.
Life is not a guarantee of a bed of roses,
we’ve always known that. I think, in the
end, whenever you go through trials and
tribulations sometimes it makes you a little
bit stronger, and you learn how to handle
things better. We think this is–especially if
you listen to the national media–just the
worst thing that’s ever happened to this
country. I would argue that it’s probably
not. It’s bad and we’re having to deal with
it. But, you know, I think it will kind of
strengthen us to be able to weather things.
Because this won’t be the last tough road
that people have to work through.
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