A farm built on up-close-and-personal on-farm experiences is retooling in the social distancing age.
Aurora Farm, near St. Norbert, had lured urbanites with a petting zoo and ‘goat yoga’ featuring baby goats. Now due to COVID-19, it’s pulling the plug on those events for the foreseeable future, and launching a grocery delivery service.
Owner and operator Louise May says the grocery service will be similar to the subscription-based food box the farm already runs during the summer months. The box is typically used to market the farm’s own eggs, garden produce, as well as items like honey.
The ongoing pandemic, however, inspired May to expand the service in an effort to keep people at home rather than the grocery store.
“For immediate family and friends and people in my community, I would just like to provide an opportunity for people to not have to go to the grocery store,” she said. “I really hunted down all of the basic basics that people always need.”
May reached out to her network of local producers and wholesalers, collecting both local produce from Peak of the Market, value-added products such as milk from Stoney Brook Creamery southeast of Winnipeg, as well as basics like canned goods or toilet paper from Sysco. The farm’s own eggs will also be marketed through the service. The farm has attempted to source as much as possible from small local producers, she noted, citing businesses such as Adagio Acres, an organic grain farm near Lundar that May has used to supply various food grains.
“As we’re going along, I’m just kind of accumulating more and more of these essentials, and then of course we have our own eggs and honey and so on from our own farm,” she said. “Depending how long this all goes, it’ll just merge into my garden box.”
May has launched the service as an extension of the farm’s regular online store, usually set up to market the farm’s soap, beauty and food products and alpaca yarn.
“You just online purchase and then I’m doing either a contactless pickup on my front porch at my farm, so if you want to drive out to the farm and pick up your box, you can do that, or I’m doing a $10 into-the-city fee for anyone who can’t get out or needs it to be taken to them for whatever reason,” she said.
Service will be order by order, May said, while her own markups will be “marginal.”
“I’m just trying to keep it affordable, just to keep us afloat,” she said.
Hand sanitizer will be yet another available item on the list.
The farm had previously marketed a sanitizer, but May noted that the product did not meet Health Canada guidelines, as it was made with natural products.
That has since changed, May said. May has received Health Canada permission and has begun producing sanitizer based on a recipe released by the World Health Organization.
May says she is not actively signing people onto a program, although about 100 regular customers and friends are receiving updates on the project.
“Hopefully this is an opportunity for people,” she said. “People just aren’t used to planning their food and they are used to being able to run over to the grocery store to get a couple of things. I’m hoping to help people avoid those trips out.”
Visitors to Aurora Farm are currently being asked to stay in their vehicles to watch the farm’s animals.