Well this has turned out to be quite a week! We knew it was going to be special with; Time Change, a full moon and Friday the 13th all rolled into one week. However, no one was expecting the Coronvirus to descend upon us with the force of a Sherman Tank. COVID-19 has shut down the world as we know it and it will make life difficult for some time. In Ohio the maple sugaring season is ending. The timing of the COVID-19 virus outbreak could not have come at a worse time for sugar makers with a full supply of maple syrup to market.
Right now, here are few things to think about if you depend on end of the maple season events to market a major portion of your crop. With the governor closing public events of 100 or more people this will impact festivals, pancake breakfasts and tours. This weekend the Ohio Maple Tours scheduled for tomorrow and Sunday are still going on but there have been several stops removed from the schedule. If you are on the Ohio Tour and you plan to be open, make sure that you know who is closed and inform your visitors. The worst thing for tour PR, is to have people show up and only half of the producers are participating. Spread the word about closures. You should be getting this information from the associations planning the tour. The end results. will likely be reduced traffic and reduced sales of product. You need to plan to market in alternate venues later in the season.
I have not heard, but I expect that many of the pancake breakfasts across the state may be cancelled. If so, that is a lot of maple syrup that will not be used. If you are one of the producers supplying syrup, work with the folks that are planning the event. Most of these events are major fund raisers for the organization that is sponsoring the breakfast. Remember they did not want this to happen. If they cut their syrup orders, be very understanding and work with them. We have no idea how long this COVID-19 outbreak will last. That means that forthcoming festivals and maple weekends may be impacted. Hopefully this will not last into the spring farmers market season, but it may. This opens up a whole new level of concerns.
Many people who visit farmers markets on a regular basis may be discouraged to attend for health reasons. Also, early season markets are often indoors or in sheltered areas. If you work these events you need to be aware of the potential health risks to you your family and your employees. One possible way to get around the problem is to use the internet to market your product. Many vendors keep good records and have contact information for their customers. You can contact them by email or phone and setup delivery of maple products. If you sell a variety of products throughout the year you might want to set up a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture. This is a great marketing tool for one or several producers working in a group to sell variety of locally grown products. Customers sign a contract to pick up every week a basket of locally grown products for one flat price. It is a great way to introduce new and different value-added maple products to your customers.
Please be aware that this article was not written insight panic. Lord knows, other media outlets have done a stellar job, when it comes to that. It is written to get you thinking outside the box when it comes to marketing your maple products.