The Bayfield Foods Cooperative has started offering spring boxes of meat and baked goods to area residents.

It’s a first for the 18 farmers and food producers who make up the cooperative. The winter Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) season ended the beginning of March and wasn’t set to start up until June, but as they watched the COVID-19 pandemic situation unfold, that changed.

“Now as everyone’s shopping habits are changing, and we’re all just instructed to stay at home. We all know people who are immunocompromised, and we don’t want to go out unnecessarily to put them at risk. We’re trying to find out how we can help out here as local producers,” said Chris Duke, the manager of the CSA and owner of Great Lakes Farm in Bayfield.

Working with their software provider, the group was able to set up a new option that allows customers to purchase as many or as few boxes as they want on a one-time basis, one week at a time. The price for each box is set, but the contents are customizable and the box is brought right to the customer's doorstep.

The cooperative sends out hundreds of boxes of food weekly during its regular season, Duke said. For the initial spring delivery on March 25, driver Jack Kaster dropped off 30 boxes to customers in Duluth, Superior, Ashland, Washburn and Bayfield. That number had grown to 50 by April 1, and Duke has already seen a spike in the number of people signing up for the regular summer CSA season.

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“I think a lot of us have had time or the opportunity to, I guess — whether we like it or not — to rethink what’s important and just sort of step back for a minute,” he said.

People may be realizing how important small businesses are.

“I mean those small businesses are key for keeping our economy afloat up here,” Duke said. “We all keep each other going up here. I think people were realizing that.”

For 10 years, Bayfield Food Cooperative has been connecting people to locally-grown food, from Griggs Cattle Co. beef and Bodin Fisheries to Starlit Kitchen bakery and Superior Small Batch meatless protein. The spring boxes were a way to offer that during the off-season, he said.

He said one customer bought a box of ground beef for themselves and one for a neighbor.

“That’s encouraging to hear,” Duke said. “It’s a great opportunity. You can send others a care package.”

Bayfield Foods CSA producers offer vegetables, meats, fruit, bakery and fresh cut flowers, according to its website. More information, including how to sign up, can be found at bayfieldfoods.org/.