May 6, 2020
Ag Resources and Information - Berks County
On behalf of the Berks County Department of Agriculture and the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, we are pleased to bring you information on resources to support you during this challenging time.

Farmers Markets Prepared to Safely Open Amid COVID-19
Farmers markets, like grocery stores, offer life-sustaining food and essentials and have been provided guidance from the Department of Agriculture on ways to safely operate and minimize risks during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The guidance also offers farms the opportunity to open an on-farm stand to sell raw produce, eggs, or shelf stable packaged foods such as jams, jellies, or baked goods without additional food safety licenses. More information about Pennsylvania’s farm markets is available online at pafarm.com or by calling Brian Moyer at
610-391-9840

The Penn Street Market in Reading will be opening on June 4th as scheduled, BUT the market will look a little different this year as it relates to vendors, layout, etc. Looking forward to sharing more details on what to expect. If you have questions about the market, please contact pennstreetmarketmanager@greaterreading.org or call 610-898-7788.


SNAP (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program)
A ny markets or farm stands that would like to accept SNAP, should apply now with USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to become an approved vendor. Apply with FNS here:  Apply to Accept SNAP If you have any questions, please contact the SNAP Retailer Service Center at 1-877-823-4369.

PA Department of Human Services (DHS) is close to finalizing an informational brochure about how farm markets & farm stands can get FREE wireless SNAP equipment under a grant awarded to DHS by FNS. However, to receive the equipment, the market must be approved to accept SNAP by FNS.
 

Penn State Extension - a Great Resource
Penn State Extension also has a web page devoted to resources to help regarding COVID-19. PSU Extension COVID-19 Resources or call them at 610-378-1327.

Programs and information links to directly help our farm community
The USDA announced the launch of program applications on April 24 for farms and aggregators to apply to distribute food to community food bank partners, paid for by the USDA. Penn State Extension’s How to Bid for the USDA Food Box Distribution Program walks farmers through the program and how to apply. Applying for this program would provide an outlet for Ag products. For questions, please call 202-720-4517.

How do I minimize the Risk to By Farm Business?


Small Business Benefits and the CARES Act: What Farm and Food Producers Need to Know CARES Act - What Farm and Food Producers Need to Know

Learning how smaller farms use collaborative marketing for accessing larger markets .    Joint venture marketing Webinar

Management Considerations for Implementing E-Commerce in a Food or Farm Business   Management considerations for implementing e-commerce in a food or farm-business


SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans Available to U.S. Agricultural Businesses Impacted by COVID-19
Agricultural businesses are now eligible for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs. The legislation, provides additional funding for farmers and ranchers and certain other agricultural businesses affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“For more than 30 years, SBA has been prohibited by law from providing disaster assistance to agricultural businesses; however, as a result of the unprecedented legislation enacted by President Trump, American farmers, ranchers and other agricultural businesses will now have access to emergency working capital,” said Administrator Carranza. “These low-interest, long-term loans will help keep agricultural businesses viable while bringing stability to the nation’s vitally important food supply chains.”
Agricultural businesses include businesses engaged in the legal production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries ( as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b) ). Eligible agricultural businesses must have 500 or fewer employees.
The SBA will begin accepting new EIDL applications on a limited basis only, in order to provide unprecedented relief to U.S. agricultural businesses . For agricultural businesses that submitted an EIDL loan application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will move forward and process these applications without the need for re-applying. All other EIDL loan applications that were submitted before the portal stopped accepting new applications on April 15 will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis.
 For more information, please visit: www.sba.gov/Disaster or contact the Eastern PA District Office, U.S. Small Business Administration Office: 610-382-3082


Ag Support in the News
Egg sale draws a big crowd
By Michelle Lynch, Reading Eagle
Vehicles stretched bumper to bumper Sunday more than a half mile along Kistler Valley Road in Kempton as customers waited to buy dozens of eggs.
The large-scale egg sale at the Kempton Community Center was the second held to help the Joshua Zimmerman family of Perry Township.
The Zimmermans of Wind Crest Farm, a cage-free egg producer, were stuck with 25,000 dozen  eggs after their processor was unable to take the eggs due to a drop in demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
“No better day than today to be part of something big,” organizer Timi Bauscher posted on Facebook Sunday morning, “an event that can unite us within the separation of quarantine and harness the power of communities coming together. Help your friends, neighbors, local food banks and, most importantly, your local farmer.”
Timi Bauscher and her husband, Keith, are owners of The Nesting Box Farm Market & Creamery in Albany Township.
The Zimmermans’  eggs were sold at $2 per dozen and were available in five-dozen increments only.
More than 50 volunteers helped direct traffic and distribute  eggs, ensuring the event at the community center, 23 Community Center Drive, went without a glitch.
“We have a huge village helping us and doing our best in uncharted waters during these unprecedented times,” Bauscher wrote.
Masked customers drove their vehicles in a one-way loop, splitting into two lines behind the community center and merging as they exited.
They were asked to open their trunks open and have exact cash for their purchases ready in small envelopes or sandwich bags.
In less than 2½ hours, all the  eggs had sold out, Bauscher said.
About 12,000  eggs sold out at the first sale last week, but with more eggs being laid each day, Bauscher is planning future sales.
“There will be more egg distributions in the near future,” she wrote on Facebook, noting the dates and times will be posted on The Nesting Box’s page.
Those who were still in line when the  eggs sold out received a stamped ticket to present at the next distribution and will be given priority in line.
In accordance with state regulations, all  eggs must be washed and packaged, which calls for a lot of manpower.
“The Zimmerman family would like to extend their sincerest gratitude to everyone who has been a part of the distributions and purchasing of their  eggs,” Bauscher posted.
She requested no calls or texts, and asked people to check for updates at The Nesting Box Farm Market & Creamery Facebook page.
Volunteers load a vehicle during Sunday’s egg sale Sunday at the Kempton Community Center. The sale benefited the Joshua Zimmerman family of Wind Crest Farm, which was stuck with thousands of  eggs due to a drop in demand during the coronavirus pandemic.


Dairy association launches ‘buy local’ campaign
The Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association has launched a NEW Dairy Campaign, “We Are Your Dairy Farmers: Stronger Together, Buy Local, Choose PA Dairy.” During COVID-19, milk is in high demand at grocery stores, but was suspended in other supply chain locations due to business, school and government shutdowns.
The new public service announcement is available on You Tube at:  PA Dairy - Buy Local  “During tough times, we are all in this together and will get through this together, but it takes a team. People ask what they can do to support us right now, given that the supply chain has drastically shifted away from restaurants, schools, colleges and businesses,” said Dave Smith, executive director, PA Dairymen’s Association.
The goal is to educate people about the importance of buying local.
“Our hope is that as Pennsylvanians hear our message, they appreciate how deeply we care about our animals, as a family, and how proud we are of the wonderful, nutritious product we produce every single day,” said Meadow Vista Dairy farmer Justin Risser of Bainbridge, Lancaster County, who appears in the public service announcement.


News to Use
Did you know there is a Berks PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) Network? Check it out . Berks PPE Resource Network or call 610-898-7776.
 
Berks County Job Portal
Thanks to the Berks County Commissioners, we have a job portal specific to Berks County. If you are Looking for Employees? Post your job here for FREE or contact the Visitor's Bureau (PA Americana) at 610-375-4085 for more information.

Berks County Mapping Tool!  
We want to know if you are open for business! Take-out, curbside, delivery, virtual, online, phone, etc. – let us and the community know! Fill out the form below, so we can add you to our mapping tool and share it with the Greater Reading community.  Berks County Open for Business Map t o find places you can support locally through their goods and services! Want to add your business? Click “Add a Business” in the top right of the mapping tool. Follow the steps and fill out the information to have your company’s information added. Questions? E-mail DHarris@GreaterReading.org or call 610-898-7789.

Do Your Part to Stop the Spread
The Berks County Commissioners are spearheading efforts to control COVID-19 in Berks County. They have We're Open, We're Doing Our Part, and Business and Personal Guidance posters available. DO YOUR PART STOP THE SPREAD

Berks County COVID-19 Help Center -
Contact the Help Center by email at  COVID@countyofberks.com  or call 610-320-6150. Staff will be answering phones and responding to emails seven days a week between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Multilingual services are available.
If a person has a Social Service question or need they should call 211. If a person is experiencing a medical emergency, they should call 911.


If you have news or resources that you want us to include in this newsletter, please call or email Pam at 610-898-7787 or PShupp@GreaterReading.org

A cooperative effort between
the GRCA and the Berks County Department of Agriculture
through the support of the Berks County Commissioners.