For almost four years, Pork & Pickles has been a staple of Athens and the surrounding area, selling local vegetables, meats and other foods. After quickly gaining a strong following, the store expanded to offer health and wellness products, gift sets and even cooking class events.
Recently, however, owner Becky Clark has had to change how Pork & Pickles operates in response to the worldwide spread of COVID-19.
“In response to COVID, we started more online sales of our products,” Clark said. “It’s a primary goal for us, in a way, to help give access to other vendors that might have a smaller following, may have less animals or may typically live kind of far outside town.”
Clark is thankful for Pork & Pickles’ warehouse, 94 Columbus Road, as the local location gives her the opportunity to expand and schedule countless vendors to come drop off products. Clark then resells and distributes these diverse products. In March, Pork & Pickles even launched a bagel line.
Blaney Family Farm in Albany is one of the many farms partnering with Pork & Pickles to sell its products. Adam Blaney was one of the core farmers who helped start the farm from scratch and expand it into selling vegetables at the Athens Farmers Market and to many local restaurants and grocers.
“We sell all kinds of products,” Blaney said, highlighting that it has primarily sold lettuce and spinach mixes and tomatoes. “We deliver everything already made and packaged (to Pork & Pickles), and they just deliver them to their customers like that.”
Since the spread of the coronavirus, Blaney Family Farm has actually had an increase in sales. The farm has an on-site shop where people can shop for produce in open air, a safer alternative than shopping within grocery stores.
“From a sales perspective, it’s actually a good thing for us because people are turning back to local food,” Blaney said. “They can trust where the food’s coming from, and they don’t have to be in a grocery store.”
Cowdery Farms, 62076 St. Rt., 124 Longbottom, has been selling produce at Athens Farmers Market since 1998. Pork & Pickles recently partnered with the farm in order to process and pickle its vegetables for sale.
Larry Cowdery, a fifth-generation family farmer who owns the farm with his wife, is hopeful that Pork & Pickles continues to find new ways to deliver and sell products amid the coronavirus.
“We cannot know what the future holds any more than we know what the weather will be like next week or next month,” Cowdery said. “We will continue to plant and harvest food and have faith that the people of Athens will need to eat and therefore come out and buy our produce as they always do.”
Rules regulating in-person events due to the coronavirus have forced Pork & Pickles to cancel all cooking classes for the foreseeable future, but its online products are still alive and well, thanks to a recently developed delivery service that reaches as far as Columbus. Clark runs the delivery service alongside one employee and her partner.
“I feel very fortunate that we were able to (develop a delivery service),” Clark said. “As we (Pork & Pickles) are returning to normal, or returning to the new normal, we owe it to the farmers.”