EASTON, MD. — Donna Sathoff is an Owner-Operator at Family Affair Farm in Easton.
Families flock here every year to pick strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. Visits here are as much about bonding as they are produce. Families usually stay for several hours, pack picnic lunches and bring small children to play.
At a farm centered around family, the effects of COVID-19 and social distancing have been largely felt. Now, the fields at the farm look much different. There are no picnic tables, social areas or children to be found.
“The families that really need to be here because they’ve been stuck at home probably between working at home and home schooling at home probably could use an outlet. I wasn’t that place for them this year and I felt really bad for that,” Donna explained.
As COVID-19 approached, the farm changed their day to day operations. Pickers must now make appointments and practice social distancing. The farm also sells pre-picked produce for pick-up.
One of the farm's biggest challenges has been harvesting the berries before they rot. Last year, Sathoff added another bank of berries. With a total of 10,000 plants, she has more to harvest than ever before.
Usually, there are thirty to forty adults and several children picking the berries. With a ten person limit in place, every person has to pick extra to harvest the crops. Though family is their focus, Donna says she made the difficult decision to not allow children at the farm.
“Unfortunately we had to make a decision not to have children come to the farm. While we love them, children can’t pick the amount of poundage that we would have to get out in order for the fruit not to rot in the field,” she said.
Sathoff expressed concern about how the year will unfold economically. Family Affair Farm, like many others, did not qualify for government aid.
“We don’t always qualify for federal assistance because we are a farming operation. Obviously other companies will step in and help us with low interest loans and different kinds of things,” explained Donna.
In Autumn, the farm usually welcomes children for pumpkin picking, a maze and field trips. With the future of schooling up in the air, that could mean a large financial loss.
Donna said of the future, “We’re optimistic. You have to be to be farming.”
Sathoff and her family look forward to the day Family Affair Farm is filled again with laughter and the presence of their community.
To support Family Affair Farm, please head to their website here.