How to Support Local - Lee and Maria's Edition
If you are a local to Kingsville, you likely know about Lee and Maria's - if you don't already know about them, they are a must in the county!
Lee and Maria's is a family run farm with a heart of gold that fills their market with goods grown in their own soil, as well as other farmers and small businesses in our community!
I had the wonderful opportunity to learn first hand how amazing this business is and am so happy to share this post. Here is what Kevin of Lee and Maria's had to say:
Tell us about your business.
Lee & Maria’s is a family farm that provides fruits, vegetables, locally produced products, and healthy groceries through our On-Farm market and home delivery service.
Why did you decide to open?
Every year we close for the season. The height of the COVID-19 pandemic just happened to coincide with when we planned to reopen our market and resume delivering to homes across Windsor-Essex.
As a family, we discussed the pros and cons of opening our doors and resuming deliveries. At that time in March, people were scared and getting food had become a primary concern for not just families but also seniors who couldn’t leave their homes.
Our mission is to provide easy access to local and healthy food. We felt there was no more important time than this pandemic to provide the service we worked on fine-tuning over the past eight years. In the end, we felt obligated to open our doors and get to work as safely as possible.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
From the day we opened and began delivering again, our challenge became finding ways to serve the hundreds of people who were looking for safe access to food.
Our delivery service was going into its eighth year, so we had an infrastructure in place to be able to get groceries to families in the region. Our issue quickly became the demand. In a typical week pre-COVID, we delivered to roughly 400 to 450. We are now delivering to over 1,100 local families each week and had to put a waitlist in place because we ran out of space in our vehicles and drivers to drive them. That waitlist is currently at 2,000 people.
In the market, we knew we needed to find new ways for people to shop so we could provide a safe and small-scale shopping experience people required.
How has Lee & Maria’s adapted to the changes in the world we live in?
Tripling capacity in our delivery service required a lot of help. Friends from local businesses like Pelee Island Winery and Green Heart kindly donated vehicles when we needed them. We also had to expand our packing area and locate a reliable source of boxes to keep the orders flowing.
In the market, we built and launched an In-Market Pickup service that allows people to order online and pickup or get curbside delivery.
We also worked with local producers who usually served restaurants in our area to develop retail ready items, limiting their impact from the virus. We also distributed menus for area restaurants, still providing take-out to people receiving pickup and delivery orders.
Recently, we added wines and beers from local wineries and breweries to our In-Market Pickup service, providing another avenue for local businesses to sell their products.
So far, we’ve hired over a dozen amazing people during the pandemic who help build orders, deliver boxes, and serve customers in our market.
What is one thing you want your customers/clients to know about your business?
Many people don’t realize that along with the market and delivery people know us for, we’re still a working farm, growing vegetables on 30 acres of land. During the pandemic, farm work has never stopped. While we were scaling up our delivery service and implementing new procedures in our market, the fields still had to be plowed, and the seeds still needed to be sowed. We understood then that the pandemic was going to be around for a long-time, and the demand for fresh local food wasn’t going away. We couldn’t sacrifice our farm work because of the current needs in the other parts of our business, which made for a lot of long nights.
When this is over, what will you remember about the COVID-19 pandemic?
The feeling of community. During the first few days of the height of the pandemic, people were scared, some out of work, and many lost and searching for something normal to grab on to. But, as Kingsville does, it banded together. I will remember the calls from people volunteering to deliver food to people stuck in their homes. I will remember the donation offers from area greenhouses. I will remember how people stepped up to help the food bank, which quickly became an essential service. And I will remember the sidewalk chalk messages to our drivers thanking them for their service. What began as widespread anxiety turned into a giant hug from a caring community.
How can people continue to support you and your business?
Our On-Farm market is open 7 days a week at 692 Seacliff Dr., and our In-Market pickup service is on our website for pickup or curb-side orders. We also opened our Ice Cream Alley pickup window on May 23rd and have a few more surprises we’re working on for this summer. We’re active on Facebook and Instagram and post updates regularly.