Local purveyors are connecting with their customers on a whole new level
A trip to the supermarket has become one of the most impactful experiences for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns about sanitized surfaces, coupled with unpredictable supply chains, have resulted in consumers over-stocking in fear of future shortages and a general distrust of the food that people feed their families. A deep and thoughtful examination, however, does reveal that there are silver linings to our current state of being, and one of those bright spots, for those who are willing, is an opportunity to connect more closely with local food sources.
The Cape and Islands are rich in local bounty, not only from the fertile farms that dot our landscape and the vibrant waters that surround us, but also from some talented and creative craftspeople who take pride in offering their products directly to consumers. With a little deliberation and a lot of cohesive information sources, humble shoppers are suddenly able to find and procure food, beverages and delicacies directly from the people who have put their hearts and souls into feeding their neighbors.
One of the most comprehensive sources in identifying the options across the Cape is the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, home to the nonprofit organization, Buy Fresh Buy Local. The group’s colorful and heartwarming logo, found on stickers affixed to many businesses’ doors and windows across the Cape, inspires a subliminal farm-to-table ethos that is backed up by its members. Their website, buyfreshbuylocalcapecod.org, accurately touts its ability to be, “Your trusted guide to local food.” The guide (complete with information on farmers’ markets, seafood providers, artisan foods and retailers, as well as a harvest calendar) offers a literal treasure map when searching for local, fresh food for your family.
Another organization, the Cape Cod Fisherman’s Alliance, also does a great job communicating about their members and where to buy directly from the fishermen’s boats via dockside pick-up. Their website, capecodfishermen.org, puts the freshest seafood in your hands with virtually no middlemen, from the sea to your plate. If the preparation and presentation is more to your liking, they have plenty of seafood markets in their resources as well, all sorted by towns and regions for your convenience.
Some fishermen are also getting creative in communicating the product and availability of their catch by posting on social media when they will be at the dock and what varieties their daily catch includes. Cape Cod Local Seafood utilizes their group Facebook page to allow local fishermen like Barnstable lobsterman Kevin Conway to post the times and location of when they will be at the dock and allow customers to reserve their order in advance. With almost 14,000 followers, the group’s Facebook page not only puts you directly in touch with the fishermen, but their videos of the fishermen hard at work on the open water and local restaurants preparing the fresh catch in innovative ways helps bring the local food experience full circle.
Chris Garguilo, owner of Cotuit Oysters, put his own personal spin on the special gifts of the sea he harvests 365 days a year. This year, just in time for Mother’s Day, when local restaurants weren’t yet allowed to open for business during Governor Baker’s “Stay at Home” order, Garguilo offered chilled trays of oysters for pick-up at his quaint and bucolic shanty on the banks of Cotuit Bay. Cotuit Oysters are prized and enjoyed around the world, including at one of the most sophisticated international hubs of the modern world: Grand Central Oyster Bar. But, a tray on Mother’s Day, directly from Cotuit, trumps any restaurant’s claim of freshness or exclusivity.
Adam Weiner, owner of Guaranteed Fresh Produce and Dairy Company, started his company 25 years ago when he recognized the need for high-quality, fresh produce to be delivered directly to the discerning restaurateurs of Nantucket. Today, Weiner has been selling his impeccable product directly to consumers through local high-quality food markets and now, out of his own storefront on Route 28 at the Yarmouth/Hyannis line. When curbside pick-up became popular, customers looking for Weiner’s history of not only meeting, but exceeding expectations kicked into high gear. Dennis resident Sue Foley, an avid gardener and cook who has a general appreciation for things of quality as well as a strong conviction of items that don’t muster up, says, “Guaranteed Fresh is the only place I trust when placing my order for curbside pick-up. I know that when I get home and unpack it, the quality and the choices will have exceeded what I might have chosen myself, in person.”
Weiner confirms the powerful impact his business had during these tough times when he says, “At the beginning I realized that this will affect everything we do. We started doing the home delivery and offered other related items like dairy, sugar, flour and yeast because everyone was at home baking.” He explained that a lot of producers couldn’t keep up with the demand the public was creating for yeast and flour fast enough. “We had ladies in tears because we had yeast; they were so happy,” Weiner explains.
Dave Scandurra, owner and founder of Edible Landscapes in Barnstable has been committed to helping homeowners source safe, healthy food from their gardens for years. Scandurra and his team of gardeners create culinary gardens within steps of the clients’ kitchens. This year, Scandurra says the internalized focus of people quarantined at home, coupled with lots of free time, has resulted in shortages of seed and stock for residential gardens. Despite the current challenges, he is hopeful that what may have started as a distraction, or a remedy, or a temporary need, will, in fact, take root and become a larger part of our residential landscape here on the Cape.
If you’re from the Cape, you know Cape Cod Beer. Owned by Todd and Beth Marcus, the iconic Cape Cod Brewery has been an attraction for tourists and locals alike for over a decade. When the pandemic started, they were forced to close on the 17th of March, St. Patrick’s Day and traditionally a big day in the beer industry, but luckily their established retail operations allowed them to still sell their beer to-go. Suddenly, lines of customers to fill their growlers with their favorite brew became a regular site in the parking lot of the brewery on Phinney’s Lane in Hyannis.
“Cape Cod Beer strives to be an active member of the Cape Cod community,” Beth Marcus explains. “Our thing has always been trying to support the local economy.” Partnering with other Cape businesses has always been part of the successful recipe at Cape Cod Beer, and during this ongoing pandemic, they have decided that it is imperative for them to continue to do so in order to help other businesses that are in “survival mode.” For National Apple Pie Day, on May 13th, they partnered with the Underground Bakery in Dennis. The bakery made apple pies, and Cape Cod Beer paired it with apple pie beer cocktails, a recipe they creatively conceived for the event. Beth explains their intuitive response, “We determined early on that this wasn’t going to go away quickly.” In response, they have looked for ways to stay fresh and give people a reason to not only come back, but to feel good about their purchase. One of those commitments to their following included a 15 percent discount on all of their product and apparel during the quarantine, of course all available for curbside pick-up.
History has seen mankind work together and become resourceful through unimaginable challenges. Recent history saw Americans support each other and tap into resiliency they may have thought they didn’t possess after September 11, 2001. And, while the entire planet is fighting to protect themselves from an invisible enemy, Cape Codders are successfully working together, by embracing our unique bounty, to stay vital and healthy.
Christina Galt is a virtual intern this summer for Cape Cod Life Publications.