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Washington state farmers adapt to pandemic with online sales

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — Some farms in Washington state are turning to online sales to adapt to business challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many small farms in Skagit County, including Farias Farm, started selling their produce online after coronavirus restrictions left fewer options to sell at farmers markets, a major source of income, the Skagit Valley Herald reported this week.

Juan Farias, co-owner of the organic vegetable and berry farm east of Burlington, said there was not much of a need for an online store before the pandemic. But now they have to be “creative” so food doesn’t go to waste.

The online store allows customers to pick produce directly from the farm or preorder and pick up at the Shoreline Farmers Market in King County, he said, adding that the store is scheduled to remain open into the fall.

“It takes upfront work, and once you have it set up and have the processes and systems, it can be something that is very worthwhile,” Farias said.

Bow Hill Blueberries co-owner Susan Soltes said her farm has seen a 400% increase in online sales since the pandemic took hold in March. She attributes the increase to more interest in immune-boosting foods such as the farm’s pure blueberry juice.

“I think if you can (start online sales), do it,” Soltes said. “You can get your product to more people further away, and you can still have your locals.”

The pandemic has created more interest in online purchasing and no-contact sales, said Blake Vanfield, marketing coordinator for Genuine Skagit Valley, a branding program for Skagit County agricultural products.

“It really is nice because you can still go directly to a farmer,” Vanfield said. “It goes straight to them.”

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