Father-son farmers find a new way to stay afloat during coronavirus pandemic

“What's important is that you plan, and, even if your plans go awry, you don't move in fear," EliYahu Ysrael said.

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By Ellison Barber

On a 40-acre farm in Dublin, Georgia, EliYahu Ysrael works alongside his dad, Asa.

They’ve been doing this for more than a decade, since EliYahu was 12 years old.

Asa says it was “an act of faith” that led them to move from New York to Georgia to start a farm.

EliYahu Ysrael farms alongside his dad, Asa.MSNBC

“For three years,” he said, “we were sinking money into this place, trying to figure out how to do one thing or another thing by messing things up. I was working back and forth in New York -- and we started to get the hang of it.”

Their business grew, and the farm is now known as Local Lands Organically Grown Gardens.

They grow all kinds of vegetables and fruits. They also have livestock: lambs, goats, chickens and cows.

The Ysraels expanded the retail side of their business to metro-Atlanta, opening a market called Atlanta Harvest and growing specialty crops on an additional 5 acres of land.

All told, the family operation includes about nine employees and produces 2,500 to 3,000 pounds of food a week.

Business was booming. Then the coronavirus came.

EliYahu Ysrael farms in Dublin, Ga.MSNBC

As the virus started to spread across the United States, and restaurants closed their doors, wholesale orders nearly disappeared.

The Ysraels say 75 percent of their revenue came from wholesale orders before the pandemic. Almost overnight, that revenue stream all but dried up. The father-son duo knew they needed to make changes to keep their farm alive.

”We started seeing that people were talking about staying in their homes,” EliYahu said. “We’re like: 'How are we going to get the food to the people? Home deliveries.'"

The farmers turned their Jonesboro storefront into a delivery hub.

They added on to an existing food box program, expanding their delivery area and allowing people to add additional items.

EliYahu and Asa Ysrael says they’ve managed to avoid a drop in revenue thanks to some modern innovation and old-fashioned farmer's wisdom.MSNBC

Most boxes are fruits and vegetables, according to EliYahu, but now customers can add meat, tea, eggs, honey and dried goods -- then have all of it dropped off at their front door.

“Once people find out that it’s a small family farm, that grows organically and chemical-free,” EliYahu said with a snap of his fingers, “it’s like that.”

In the middle of an economic disaster, EliYahu says they’ve managed to avoid a drop in revenue thanks to some modern innovation and old-fashioned farmer's wisdom.

“Every season is different, and some seasons may bring early freeze, some seasons maybe bring scorching heat and drought, and you just never know what's going to happen,” EliYahu explained. “What's important is that you plan, and, even if your plans go awry, you don't move in fear.”