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Fresh Produce Delivery Gives Local CSA Farmers A Boost

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA


On today's program: Local farmers might be benefitting from the demand for home-delivered fresh produce; the state liquor control board is struggling to keep up with online liquor sales; and before railroads carried goods through Pittsburgh, canals did the job. 


Farmers’ direct to home business booming
(00:00 — 08:26) 

Restaurants are restricted to take-out only as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. With fewer people eating out, there’s greater demand for healthy, locally-grown food delivered directly to consumers.

“We’ve seen about a 200 percent increase in sales for our farmers” since the outbreak began, says Simon Huntley of Pittsburgh’s Harvie Farms, which works with 10 local farms in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project.

Typically CSAs require consumers to pick up the goods they order at a community center or another location with refrigerator space. Earlier this year Huntley started a pilot project where farmers send produce, meat and dairy to his Pittsburgh location, where orders are boxed and delivered to customers’ doorsteps.

Huntley says they’ve done three delivery days since March. Weekly deliveries will begin in May as the growing season kicks into high gear. 

“The response especially with the current crisis has been overwhelming,” he says. 

According to Huntley, it can be a tough time for farms that do most of their business with restaurants and wholesalers: “We’re seeing both in the Pittsburgh area and nationally that these farms are having to switch their business model very quickly to access the direct to consumer market.”

Huntley says he’s confident the demand for farm to doorstep deliveries will continue after the virus subsides.

Yinz really like your Fireball
(08:31 — 17:15)

All 600 of Pennsylvania’s brick-and-mortar Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores remain closed this week as part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s sweeping coronavirus shutdowns, but limited online sales with home delivery have returned and continue to grow. 

Bob Batz Jr., a features editor with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reports on how the randomized process has irked Pennsylvanians. The site had about 1.4 million visitors and 7.4 million page views in its first six days online, but was only able to fulfill about 4,300 orders. Batz reports online sales have always represented a very small portion of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s annual revenue, so ramping up availability while still respecting worker safety has been a challenge.

He says the PLCB is adding more capacity nearly every day, but getting through to the order process is mostly a matter of luck. Early returns show Fireball cinnamon whisky, Tito’s Vodka and sweet Barefoot wines are the most popular orders so far.

Before train tracks, canals ruled inland transportation 
(17:20 — 21:30)

Before highways and railroads crisscrossed the commonwealth, a series of linked waterways and inclined planes brought people and goods across the state. 

Pennsylvania’s topography is different from New York’s, so engineers were challenged to design a system that could traverse the state’s mountain ranges and waterways. Locks, dams, aqueducts and viaducts were constructed from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and inclined planes, similar to the Duquesne and Monongahela that still exist today, helped boats climb over the Allegheny Mountains.

90. WESA’s Katie Blackley takes a look at the history behind the Pennsylvania Canal system. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
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