The life of a farmer in 2020 has proven more difficult than usual. Restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a shortage of employees to pick crops and unpredictable weather have put many Florida farm stands out of business. On top of all that, Jessica's Organic Farm, a sustainable Sarasota farm established in 1979, was the victim of a robbery this August.
About $5,000 in cash was stolen from the farm's safe in the middle of the night on Aug. 10, according to farm office manager Alyson Noune. "We filed a police report with the Sarasota Police Department, and have an idea that whoever committed the crime knows the details of the farm," says Noune. But, so far, the police have been unable to identify the robber or recover the money that was lost.
Jessica's, which is owned by Bill Pischer, sells organic produce grown on its farm and distributes organic products from other sources. "Organic, local food is what people need right now, and we hope that a growing interest in health is enough to keep us in business," says Noune. Noune has been volunteering on the farm for 12 years, and became the office manager in September, after the robbery. To make up for the lost funds, Noune has launched a handful of online campaigns to benefit the farm.
On Dec. 1, as part of the nationwide Giving Tuesday effort, the farm received $7,000 in donations from customers, $2,000 over its original goal. The money will go toward a new fertilizing system, along with paying staff and completing farm renovations. The farm staff also launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $3,300.
"It was encouraging to see how many generous customers we have," says Noune.
In addition to selling food at its farmstand, Jessica's this year began an online ordering and delivery service. The farm donates thousands of pounds of produce to All Faiths Food Bank each year, and supports other local farms by distributing their products.
Now, farm staff are trying to put 2020 behind them and focus on growing food. Crops currently in rotation include spinach, kale and collard greens.
"We are all trying to guide the farm through what feels like a pretty powerful transition," says Noune. "Bill and the farm are the real deal. It's always just been about the earth and serving people."
Jessica's Organic Farm is located at 4180 47th St., Sarasota, and is open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more info, call (941) 363-1586 or visit the farm's website.