Table leaves will remain stowed and folding chairs stashed in the basement Thursday, as many Monadnock Region families forgo their traditional Thanksgiving gatherings to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Local businesses that typically bustle with activity around Turkey Day say they, too, have been affected by the pandemic — though some have adapted to the new circumstances and continue to sell their Thanksgiving products.
Denise Meadows, co-owner and chef at CC&D’s Kitchen Market in Keene, said the business was well positioned to handle the changes this year because it offers takeout meals and catering services.
“We were kind of in a good place when the world got shut down, she said.
CC&D’s required customers to order Thanksgiving dinner by Friday but sold out of turkey days before that after receiving more requests than in previous years, Meadows explained. She said with restaurants offering limited dining and fewer family potlucks, people have turned to the market as an option for their Nov. 26 fixings.
Smaller turkeys, in the 15-pound range, have been particularly popular this year, according to Meadows, who said many of CC&D’s meat providers have struggled to sell large birds due to the lack of large gatherings. Greater demand for smaller turkeys appears to be a nationwide trend.
Stonewall Farm in Keene canceled its annual Thanksgiving Farm Fare this year due to the recent surge of cases in the region, according to Executive Director Julie Davenson.
Davenson said the nonprofit decided Tuesday night to call off the event, where local farmers and artisans typically sell their goods in a market-like environment. It has been held every year for a quarter century, she added.
“With cases rising, I don’t know if it’s a responsible thing to be running an event like that,” she said.
More than 1,000 people have attended Farm Fare in recent years, according to Davenson. She noted that it benefits local vendors and also gives attendees an opportunity to do all of their holiday shopping — from food to gifts — in one place.
Farm Fare does not have a big impact on Stonewall Farm’s bottom line, since a large portion of the vendor fees it charges are spent on marketing for the event, Davenson explained. She added, however, that it has significant benefits for the Monadnock Region economy, as a whole.
“What’s special about this is you’re meeting the producers, themselves,” she said. “… We need to build more resiliency in our local food systems, and we do that not just by shopping with [area] farmers in times of crisis but doing that year-round.”
The bakery is still humming at Allen Brothers Farms, the Westminster, Vt., market well known for its pies, though operations look slightly different this year.
Stacey Allen, who owns the business with her husband, Tim, said they had not experienced a drop-off in Thanksgiving sales as of Wednesday but will not be able to fully judge the pandemic’s effects until after next week.
One unsurprising change has been a greater volume of remote orders, either online or over the phone, rather than by people shopping at the market.
Of the nearly 700 pies Allen Brothers sold last year — which included apple, pecan and pumpkin options, in addition to other fruit varieties — Allen estimated that 400 were ordered online or over the phone. The share of remote pie orders has increased this year, she said, with the market receiving about 30 such requests each day.
Allen said, however, that people are ordering fewer pies than in previous years, which she said is likely a result of smaller Thanksgiving gatherings during the pandemic.
And, liberated from stodgy Turkey Day traditionalists usually seated at their table, some families are getting creative.
“We make really, really good carrot cake, chocolate cake and apple-blossom cake,” Allen said. “We added that to our dessert form, and we’re seeing more people ordering a small cake.”
Not to be alarmed, she added that people in the region have shown a strong appetite for the conventional stuff, too. Allen Farms now provides Thanksgiving meals every Thursday, after its customers demanded that a more limited schedule be extended year-round, according to Allen.
“We stopped in the summertime, and people were so upset that we did it throughout the whole summer,” she said.
As of Wednesday, the market had received 17 orders for its Thanksgiving dinner offering, which includes turkey, a side dish and pie, and will be available for curbside pickup, Allen said. She predicted sales would increase in the remaining time before Thursday.
That revenue will likely help offset lower revenue on Thanksgiving, which Allen said she expects since fewer people will be traveling to visit relatives and purchasing food on their way.
With the pandemic having upset many established food systems, some Monadnock Region vendors are even using it as an opportunity to dip a toe into the Thanksgiving market.
Archway Farm in Keene raised and sold turkeys for the first time, according to owner Mark Florenz.
The farm, which traditionally specialized in pork products, has diversified its products recently by adding poultry, Florenz said. In addition to chicken, that included raising 20 turkeys this year.
“Doing the turkey was a pretty easy addition to chicken,” he said.
Anticipating that smaller turkeys would be popular this year due to the lack of large gatherings, Archway Farm raised its birds to between 10 and 15 pounds, Florenz explained. All but two had been gobbled up as of Tuesday — mostly by established customers, rather than people coming for the turkey alone, he said.
But although turkey represents only a small portion of sales, compared to pork products, Florenz expressed satisfaction with its addition to the farm’s offerings. Archway Farm will likely continue selling turkey in subsequent years, he added.