Creativity abounds as Irvine’s essential business community continues to surpass challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic. Tanaka Farms’ Drive-Thru Produce Market Stand is an example of what happens when ingenuity meets tenacity, as they have changed their business model to allow them to continue to provide fresh produce to the community while practicing social distancing.
“As a farm and a farmers market we are considered an essential business and are allowed to continue to operate,” explains farmer Glenn Tanaka.
Before COVID-19 hit and heavy restrictions went into effect, Tanaka Farms was a local favorite for visiting and learning. However, since the shutdown, one of Tanaka Farms’ main sources of revenue was cut-off, leaving them struggling to find a way to keep doors open.
“We have provided an important service to the community not only by providing local farm fresh produce but also educating and entertaining everyone about agriculture,” shares Tanaka. “Our ‘agri-tainment’ portion of our farm is the majority of our revenue so when the ‘stay-at-home’ order came into effect, so did the most profitable part of our business. Fortunately for us, the community has really rallied around us and has been coming out to support us by purchasing our home-grown produce.”
Tanaka Farms’ Drive-Thru Produce Market Stand is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., where shoppers are invited to get their groceries from the safety and comfort of their own car. With a selection of fresh-picked vegetables hitting the stand daily, this local staple is doing everything they can to keep everyone safe, healthy and well-fed.
So how does it work, and what precautions are staff taking? Farmer Tanaka describes the process: “All of our employees have been instructed and are constantly reminded of the latest safety protocols. At our ‘drive-thru’ produce stand, all of our produce is displayed for you to see while you stay and drive along in your car. One of our cashiers will sanitize their cart, their personal register and put on a fresh pair of gloves before following you down the line picking out the produce that you direct them to. When you are done, they will give you a total and if paying by credit/debit card or apple pay they will bring the portable register to you to insert your card. No need to sign or to get out of your vehicle.”
This is a wonderful alternative to costly grocery delivery services and packed stores. Says Farmer Tanaka, “By buying direct from the farm and with the safety protocols that we have in place, your produce has only been touched by the person that harvested the item and the person that picked it out of the box for you.” The less interaction, the better.
In addition to the drive-thru, the farm is also offering curbside pick-up for online orders. Customers can order online for same-day pick-up before 3:30 p.m., or starting at 5 p.m. for next day. Curbside pick-up is available daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., online ordering is closed from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily so that inventory can be updated.
“Both drive-thru and curbside pick-up have been very well received,” reports Farmer Tanaka. “Customers really like the fact that they can get out of the house, visit the farm and get farm fresh produce in a safe manner.”
Tanaka Farms has been a long-time supporter of the Irvine community, through donations of fresh produce to organizations like Irvine’s Families Forward and through monetary support of endeavors like the CSA program. Even in these trying times, the farm is still partnering with those that need them.
“We continue that at this time by working with Break of Dawn owner Dee Nguyen, Orange County Baking Co. owner Dean Kim, Crema Artisan owner Tarit Tanjasiri and Solutions For Urban Agriculture in providing more than 300 healthcare workers and their families homemade chicken noodle soup and baked goods. A small gesture of thank you,” exclaims Tanaka.
Just as they support us, Tanaka Farms needs us to support them. Like many others, the farm is facing a critical time thanks to sweeping regulations brought on by COVID-19.
“Most of the public believes that Tanaka Farms has a lot of money because they think that we own this property,” Farmer Tanaka explains. “In reality, we lease it from the city. [People] come to the pumpkin patch in October and see a traffic jam of cars and come pick strawberries in the springtime and think ‘wow, what a great business!’ Unfortunately, that is three busy months out of twelve! We are a small, family-owned business that struggles to make the rent and pay payroll like most other small businesses. During this month and the next we usually have over 350 schools and thousands of families come and tour the farm and pick strawberries. This year will be very different and difficult for everyone.”
“All of us at Tanaka Farms cannot thank the community enough for supporting the farm during this time of crisis,” praises Farmer Tanaka.
We can’t wait to be picking strawberries once again!
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