Silver Diner's ‘Farm Box’ program works to support local producers

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The farms that usually provide the Silver Diner with fresh produce and meat are having trouble surviving as many restaurants are closed or offering only carryout during the coronavirus outbreak. A new partnership looks to change that.

Boxes of farm-fresh items can now be picked up through Silver Diner. The program that launched last week between the restaurant chain and its distributor Coastal Sunbelt hopes to help farms navigate the coronavirus outbreak.

“At a time when Silver Diner is also struggling to survive, it gives us a great feeling to be able to give back to the community and have an uplifting cause to give to,” said Silver Diner and Silver, New American Brasserie’s executive chef and co-founder Ype Von Hengst.

Silver Diner has had to lay off all but 200 of its 1,800 employees.

The changing restaurant scene has been a challenge for farmers, with most local restaurants now closed or severely cutting down on their orders from farms.

“With a lot of that business going away, this has kind of stepped in and filled in that decrease in business,” said Joe Parker, finance manager at Parker Farms in Virginia.

Parker said the boxes help provide them with some extra income in a difficult time. It also helps them stay on track, as they still have to keep a schedule for harvesting certain fruits and vegetables.

“We still have to pick that product out of the field to keep our plants and our crops going forward so instead of throwing it on the ground or dumping it at our warehouse, we’re still able to get some revenue off of it,” Parker said.

More than 400 boxes were preordered online in the first two hours that they were available last week. This week, Silver Diner sold 800 boxes.

The produce and dairy box is $35. This week, they started offering a $50 butcher’s box, as well, with ground turkey, beef and steaks from local Mennonite and Amish farms.

“It’s really just been a lot of uncertainty not knowing how to proceed, not knowing how to plan ahead, which you have to do in farming, because you still have to decide when to plant and when not to plant,” Parker said. “I think when things do get back to normal, it’ll be a new normal.”

The boxes are available for pre-order through the Silver Diner website and can be picked up at any Silver Diner restaurant in the region.

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