Amid coronavirus crisis, small farms and creameries offer food, safety, diversion

Child: “I’m bored.”

Parent: “I know, but we have to keep safe.”

In the midst of local, state and national emergencies designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, children and parents are spending most of their time at home, sequestered from friends and organized activities.

At the same time, restaurants, theaters, sporting events, concerts and other places where people enjoy themselves are closed. Families at home are watching movies, keeping in touch on social media and listening to music.

Meanwhile, small farm-based markets and creameries hope to offer an alternative to safety-conscious parents and their bored children.

“We’ve only been cooped up for three days now, and you’d think it’s three months,” said Chuck Fry, owner of Rocky Point Creamery, in Point of Rocks, Maryland.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests limiting gatherings to 10 people in a room.

eggs whiffletree farm
Small farm markets — like Whiffletree Farms in Fauquier County, Virginia — offer fresh food, and a relatively safe diversion during the coronavirus restrictions. (Courtesy Whiffletree Farms)

Fry has locked the doors of the picturesque ice cream shop on a dairy farm along Route 28 in Frederick County, but is offering drive-thru service through the window he built a decade ago, as a convenience for customers seeking a chocolate milkshake to go.

“Lo and behold, we didn’t think back then that 10 years later it would be the only source of being able to keep our business open,” said Fry.

Fry says the creamery is offering milkshakes, hard and soft-serve ice cream, sundaes and homemade waffle cones in a safe environment. “We’re always gloved up anyway, but at the height of this, we take a little extra precaution.”

Families desperate for a walk in the country can stroll the farm, where fields of sunflowers grow yearly.

“Out in the middle of nowhere, a few cows around, I feel maybe unsecurely safe with the coronavirus, but there’s lots of fresh air and we feel having the drive-thru is a little bit of a barrier between the customer and us, and will help control that virus.”

Across the Potomac River, and 50 miles away in Fauquier County, Virginia, Whiffletree Farm is hoping customers in search of pasture-raised chicken, pork and turkey — as well as grass-fed beef — will appreciate a trip to the country.

“We are taking precautions to try to minimize exposure,” said Jesse Straight, owner and lead farmer. “One of those precautions is only having 10 or less people in our farm store at a time and having anyone else wait outside while the next person’s checking out.”

Straight said customers have expressed frustration over crowded grocery stores, in the midst of panic buying.

“We’ve had a big influx of customers for that reason, because we do have meat and eggs, and we are well-stocked,” Straight said.

Parents anxious to follow safety guidelines don’t have many options, Straight acknowledged.

“If they want to come out and take a walk around the farm with their family and enjoy the beauty, they won’t be with other people,” said Straight. “You’re not going to have that danger, and you can get out of the house.”

A trip to a rural farm, in Virginia’s horse country, can also provide stress relief.

“The spring is coming, and the sun is shining, and the fresh air smells sweet, so we have that as a source of hope,” said Straight. “You’ll get to breathe in the fresh air, see the sunshine and green grass popping up, and I hope that will be a source of peace, and calm, and enjoyment.”

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