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Upstate residents find what they need at local farms during coronavirus outbreak
Herald-Journal - 3/29/2020
Mar. 29--All of the Herald-Journal's coverage of coronavirus is being provided for free to our readers. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to GoUpstate.
Kelly Stanley found the items she needed Saturday at Belue Farms Natural Market, which still has a steady supply of food during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
The Spartanburg resident said some local grocery stores still don't have the meats she needs to feed her family.
"We have to go to several stores to find ground beef or meat," Stanley said. "Our family doesn't come to Belue often maybe four times a year. It's nice to find what we need here."
The market on Parris Bridge Road in Boiling Springs has experienced an increase in business since the coronavirus outbreak. Owner Harriett Belue said the market has made some adjustments.
"People are finding we still have a lot of things the larger stores don't have," Belue said. "We still have eggs, milk and a lot of meats."
Belue said the market began offering curbside pick-up for customers on Friday. The market placed a limit of items customers can purchase to make sure there is enough for everybody.
Andrea Dughoff of Hendersonville, N.C., visited the market with her family. She said it's hard to find raw milk in stores where she lives.
"Some shelves at grocery stores in North Carolina are still bare," Dughoff said. "We are just trying to eat healthy and keep our immune systems going."
Belue said the market has restocked milk at least once.
"We are planning to be here and keep stocking so people can find what they need," Belue said. "The coronavirus hasn't been disrupting for us. It's changed the way we do things."
Belue anticipates the peach crop will be strong this year, with peaches ready by the end of May.
"It's looking like it's going to be a good crop," she said. "We will be planting sweet corn soon. So far the weather is cooperating."
Belue said the market is sanitized every two hours, cleaning all of the shared surfaces. The market also is sanitized daily after it closes.
The market will soon begin selling fresh strawberries from Chesnee-based Cooley Farms.
On Saturday, the first strawberries of the season were picked from the fields by workers at Cooley Farms on Highway 11. Owner James Cooley said the strawberries grown at the farm will likely be available for sale by April 15.
"We are still working on the strawberry fields," Cooley said. "It's going to be a great season. We are pruning the peach trees and it looks like it's going to be another great year for peaches."
The restaurant at Strawberry Hill U.S.A. remains closed for dining, but takeout orders are available. Cooley said the coronavirus continues to be on peoples' minds.
"All we can do is look up and keep praying for the best," Cooley said. "My heart goes out to people."
Workers at Cooley Farms practice social distancing and wear gloves in the field. More than 200 workers are employed at the farm.
"We just keep praying it's (coronavirus) going to get better," Cooley said. "As long as we are here to see it, that is the main thing."
Jerry Blackwell, Cooley Farms manager, said area residents have been calling the farm asking when produce will be available for sale.
"The phone has been ringing off the hook asking us if the stand is open and ready," Blackwell said. "People are ready for fresh fruits and vegetables."
Blackwell said the farm is excited to begin selling strawberries soon to the public.
"The yield productions in the field look real good and the peach crop looks good as of today," Blackwell said.
Cooley said he doesn't sell his produce to large grocery chains and relies mostly on sales to local residents.
"We are nothing without our customers," Cooley said. "It's all about the customers. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the customers."
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