Editor’s note: This is a weekly series focusing on the importance of buying local.

Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse usually opens by April 1. But this year, the coronavirus arrived in March and proved to be no April Fools’ Day joke.

The pandemic prompted owners Russ Bedner and his father, Robert, to delay the public opening of their their Cecil Township garden center by three weeks. Management and staff needed time to ramp up operations and implement new initiatives.

“This was quite an adjustment,” Russ said. “We had to do things we had never done before. There was a lot of extra labor involved, and whatever, to deal with what is going on now.”

COVID-19 has changed how the entire world is functioning, and how businesses that are open are making do. Large farming operations in Washington County, family-owned and with farm stores, have had to shift gears, but thus far, Bedner’s, Simmons Farms and Trax Farms Market have been surviving, perhaps thriving.

“Usually, we’re not that busy early on, so I don’t think missing those two weeks really hurt. We have been fortunate. We are doing well,” said Russ, whose establishment enforces “a strict 15-person limit in the store.”

The farm’s garden center is open, its landscaping department is fully functional and it now has an online store. Bedner’s offers curbside service, with a drive-through pickup, and delivery.

Although the farm tries to limit trips to 15 miles one way, it has transported groceries as far as Acme on the Westmoreland-Fayette county line.

Russ added he and his wife, Melanie, set up a drop off spot for Bridgeville Area Food Bank, and the business is matching a dollar per item donated in May.

Spring did not start as well for Simmons Farm, which had to cancel its popular Easter egg hunt last month and school field trips.

“Otherwise, business has been running pretty close to normal,’ said Scott Simmons, owner and partner of the Peters Township farm, which has a store on the grounds and another on Route 19 in the township.

Simmons requires customers at both stores to don masks and observe proper social distancing.

Homegrown flowers and vegetable plants are available at the Simmons Road greenhouse. Curbside pickup of them can be scheduled via email or telephone. Fresh produce is sold at the Washington Road site.

Scott Simmons said workers at the farm are not picking fruits and vegetables, but planting is continuing. “We are doing what we normally do.”

Trax Farms Market likewise is adhering to safety guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: customers who enter must wear masks and stay six feet apart.

The market, in Union Township, is open daily and also offers an online curbside pickup service and a drive-through greenhouse. Payment is by credit card or debit card only.

Trax is a sixth-generation family farm that was established more than 150 years ago — near the end of the Civil War. Management did not return phone calls for comment.

Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Chris Slota at 724-225-1326 or by email at chris@belocal.net. Discount cards are available at the Observer-Reporter and Almanac office, 122 S. Main St., Washington.

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