How Second Chances Farm is Weathering Covid-19

Second Chances Farm, based in Wilmington, Delaware, provides returning citizens with mentorship programs and green collar jobs at hydroponic, indoor vertical farms in
economically distressed communities.

Its vision is two-fold: to reduce its carbon footprint by growing food locally 365 days a year, while replacing recidivism with compassionate capitalism and turning entrepreneurs-in-residence into agripreneurs.

On March 16, Second Chances Farm’s returning citizens, management team, community leadership and chef/owner customers were walking on air. Its first harvest, which was completely sold out to local restaurants, was beautiful and bountiful, ready for delivery.

They had been working nearly non-stop since early February, assembling modules, running plumbing and electrical systems, and planting tens of thousands of seedlings, which would be harvested on March 16 and sold wholesale to local restaurants.

And then, [needle scratching on vinyl], COVID-19 took over the world like an alien invasion. On March 16, Delaware’s Governor, John Carrey, issued an order for all restaurants to close their doors by 8:00 p.m. Chefs called to cancel their orders.

Restaurants throughout Delaware and into Philadelphia were shutting down as a measure to prevent spreading of the virus. COVID-19 was a stake in the heart of all of Second Chances Farm’s wholesale restaurant customers. Naturally, they wondered what they were going to do with this immense, perishable harvest.

“It was like a punch in the stomach,” said Ajit Mathew George, founder of Second Chances Farm. “My team and our returning citizens knew that this could be the end. Startups are notorious for failure – you never have enough capital. I felt I needed to be brave, even though I was scared to my bones. I had no idea what to do.”

But as the day progressed, he knew that something needed to be done immediately, because produce is perishable. He didn’t have two weeks to plan.

“After the initial shock wore off, I started brainstorming and thought, ‘What if people are not able to go to restaurants?” said George. “Would there be a market for home delivery? So I got my amazing team together. We immediately created a landing page on our website, and then an order page.

We had to ask ourselves, ‘What if, God forbid, people actually
subscribed? How would we deliver all of it?’ We had no operations for retail. I decided to worry about the delivery if we got orders, and if we didn’t, there was no point in worrying about delivery.”

Thus was born the “Farm to Table” home delivery service, featuring weekly deliveries of fresh, locally grown produce to all of the people who were now sheltering at home.

George posted on Facebook and LinkedIn, and sent letters to his friends and the supporters of Second Chances Farm asking them to subscribe.

He needed 200 subscribers to make it work, and within hours, he had them. After the first deliveries were made, the reception was positive and immediate:

Got it last Friday and just finished the lettuce yesterday. We had salads all week. Loved it all!

- Dee Baer
If you live in or near the city, you need to subscribe to Second Chances Farm! Absolutely fresh, crisp and bright lettuces, bok choy, herbs, kales, etc. This evening I used the baby bok choy in a quick stir fry with Cremini and baby Bella mushrooms, ginger, soy, sesame oil, chicken and hot pepper flakes over rice...sauce made with veggie stock. The baby bok choy took this dish over the top! Crisp and crunchy, sweet and amazing taste pop! I can get used to this....

– Sandra Bihary-Waltz
The veggies I received last week were very fresh and flavorful... Thank you for delivering the produce to my home in West Chester, PA.

– Daniel Butler
Thank you for the deliveries of the freshest possible hydroponic greens and herbs.

– Julie Cawley

Last week, Second Chances Farm conducted an online survey of its 250 Farm to Table customers and were delighted by the results. More than 88 percent said that they preferred he quality of Second Chances Farm’s produce above anything they’ve bought in the store.

Life turns on a dime. One day, you’re meeting your team for happy hour and raising toasts of well-deserved congratulations, and the next, you’re scrambling for your life amidst tragedy and uncertainty. But hopefully we survive, and we don’t do it alone.

About the Author: Dana Dobson is the Chief Communications Officer at Second Chances Farm
Date Published: April 19, 2020



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