Local farms stepping up for key role


Still looking for some good news in the ongoing coronavirus crisis?

Well, home deliveries are up significantly since the beginning of March for local farms.

Sure, you’re thinking, that’s great for them. And, of course, it is. But it’s also good for you, the consumer.

More and more people are becoming frustrated with shopping at the local supermarket. There’s either a line to get in or you’re corona-shamed if you walk down an aisle the “wrong way” or your glasses are fogging up because there’s a mask covering the parts of your face that draw breath and you can’t read your list.

So here’s a viable option: Order from a local farm that delivers.

Tully Farms Dairy in Dunstable is doing more delivery business due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Charlie Tully unloads empties from the truck after a busy delivery run. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

“When we first got the stay-at-home order, we added a lot of new customers that first week,” said Charlie Tully, a fifth-generation farmer at Tully Farm in Dunstable. “People were scared to go out, maybe a little more scared to go to a regular supermarket. This way, they can get what they need delivered so they don’t have to go to a supermarket so often.

“We’ve probably added 200 customers, maybe a little more than that, in a month,” he said, adding that the farm had between 250 and 300 delivery customers before the virus struck. “We added a lot of business.”

Warren Shaw, a fourth-generation farmer at Shaw Farm in Dracut, concurs.

“With everything that’s gone on, people are growing uncomfortable with the food supply,” Shaw said. “And they want to stay home.”

And it’s not just milk these farmers are seeing fly out the door of the barn and through the doors of the delivery trucks.

“We’re probably selling five to 10 times the bread we normally sell,” Shaw said. “So there’s milk, bread, eggs, ice cream, meat, cheeses, frozen dinners, frozen pizzas, lemonade, iced tea, ham, bacon — whatever we sell in the store. We have 85 to 100 things going out in each truck.”

Wait, did he say ice cream? You do know that Shaw’s has the best chocolate ice cream in the whole entire universe, right? And they’ll deliver it? To your door?

Why, yes, and they’re doing quite well, thanks.

Tully Farms Dairy in Dunstable is doing more delivery business due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Jennifer Tully (Charlie’s wife), and her daughter Kristina, both of Dunstable, at the store. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

Shaw has run the numbers for the first quarter of 2020, and let’s just say things are looking up. In a normal year, the farm might clear $150,000 per year through delivery. He calculated that if he were to take the money the farm made through delivery over a six-week period from the beginning of March through mid-April and project it over a year, Shaw’s would take in nearly 10 times that amount.

Tully Farm, which is approaching its 150th year in business — Charlie Tully’s children represent the sixth generation working the land — delivers to Dunstable, Pepperell, Groton, Littleton, Westford, Tyngsboro and parts of Ayer. Deliveries are made weekly. For more information, visit tullyfarms.com or call 978-649-6687.

Shaw Farm delivers to Dracut, Lowell, Chelmsford, Tyngsboro, Westford, Tewksbury, Andover, North Andover and Methuen, as well as the Southern New Hampshire towns of Pelham, Hudson and Windham, N.H. Deliveries are made weekly. Visit shawfarm.com or call 978-957-0031.

So until the pandemic panic passes and the supermarkets are safe again, why not have your friendly neighborhood farm deliver to your door? Just save a gallon of chocolate for me.

Dan Phelps’ email address is dphelps@lowellsun.com.

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