Here's some sweet news: The Sarasota Honey Company has created an online portal that connects customers to local farmers' market vendors whose operations have been disrupted by the closure of markets caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Suncoast Victory Market, as it's known, includes a list of vendors selling everything from freshly baked bread to raw milk and local produce. The site offers info on the different online ordering options each company is offering, as well as how to pick up your purchases. Each pickup location is designated as "safe" and is being cleaned and sanitized after every order is filled. Vendors are also offering combined pickups, meaning you can grab multiple items at the same time.
The name of the market is a nod to the "victory gardens" planted by people around the globe during World War I and World War II. Historians estimate that during World War II, 20 million gardens were planted in America alone, and that, at one point, community gardeners produced 40 percent of the nation's food supply.
"The driving force was to connect folks to the local community," says Sarasota Honey Company founder Alma Johnson. Through the portal, you're able to purchases bread from the French bakery Rendez-Vous, micro-greens from Pura Verde, almond milk from Totally Nuts! and much more.
Johnson says the coronavirus has left companies like hers "scrambling." The Sarasota Honey Company has remained open throughout the pandemic, but has been only offering sales through a service window at its University Parkway building.
Johnson has been manning the storefront alone, but, recently, other employees have begun returning. They are all wearing masks, and customers who enter the store must don a mask and sanitize their hands. Those who do not want to do either can still order at the company's window.
Managing the store solo has prevented Johnson from tending to her bees. Johnson says that if no one regularly harvests honey from a hive, the bees will consume the honey and then move on to other locations. "I've lost a lot of hives," Johnson says. "Mother Nature doesn't care. She's very fickle."