July 13, 2020
This year has been anything but standard—the same goes for Trillium Farm. Usually thirty percent of Trillium Farm’s sales go to restaurants. This year, Trillium Farm is finding their revenue coming from a different source, according to farmer and Trillium Farm owner James Donegan.
“That was a big change to not have those sales. So pretty shocking at first, but that was a result of the COVID pandemic,” Donegan said.
Shortly after Donegan and his wife, Sara Donegan, realized they no longer had restaurant sales, interest in their Community Supported Agriculture and farmstand sales increased sharply, doubling from that of last year, Donegan said. Trillium farm offers a wide range of produce and meat, drinks and flowers, including from neighboring farms.
CSA customers select their weekly portion of fresh vegetables every Monday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. The rest of the week, the farmstand attracts a steady stream of loyal customers — open also from 2 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Just this Monday, Brain Gill, who has been supplying Trillium Farm with various farm essentials for over three years, walked out of the Farmstand with fresh lettuce and tomatoes.
“There’s nothing better than homegrown vegetables,” Gill said, reflecting on his recent purchase.
For Gill, fresh vegetables are just where the benefits of buying from local farmers begin.
“I hope the community continues to support places that, you know, produce milk crews, meat, vegetables right here in the state. If that continues, the state will be much better balanced because people who grow the product also spend their money locally. And it just is much better for the economy than the dollar general mentality. So, I hope it works out for the Vermont farmers that are working at this and they’ve got a great place here,” Gill said.
And the community certainly does seem to be supporting just those places. Like any other year, Trillium Farm is bustling. Only this season, James, Sara, and the crew find themselves busy with curbside pick-up. Customers simply select their orders on the Trillium Farm website and their goods are ready to go by the time they get there. Despite the unusual circumstances, everyone at the farm still maintains their friendly relationship with the community.
“The interactions were briefer with the curbside pickup, but still, you know, some people would roll down the window and know we’d have a quick, ‘Hi, How are you?’ And this and that. So we still got the community interaction,” Donegan said.
Donegan sometimes even recognizes the customers by their cars now that they are taking orders out to people. When people do enter the farmstand, he enjoys seeing the familiar faces pick their vegetables out. There are many customers he’s known for a long time, Donegan said.
“I know or get to know everybody who’s a regular customer,” Donegan said.
Trillium Farm gets lots of positive feedback. People simply love the products. Donegan finds providing and producing healthy foods for the community to be one of the most rewarding parts of his job.
The team at Trillium Farm has overcome some huge challenges this season. All the same, they’ve stepped up to the plate by building a handwashing station for customers before entering the Farmstand, limiting inside to two persons, and requiring masks. More importantly, but they continue to serve the community with friendly, meaningful interactions to go along with their fresh, top-notch products.
“I’ve had a fantastic crew this year. There’s five folks who are working part time. Everybody is doing a great job and it seems like it was very challenging making the adjustments, but it seems like we have done it and continue to make the adjustments as needed,” Donegan said.
Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.