How local farmers are faring during the coronavirus pandemic

Colleton County News

WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCBD) – The coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on local farms, including one in Walterboro.

At Keegan-Filion Farm in Walterboro, they have had to change their customer base since COVID-19 began to ramp up in the country.

“We’re a pastured pork poultry operation,” said Marc Filion, the owner of Keegan-Filion Farm. “We do some grass-fed beef. We raise about 450 head of hogs a year and about 15,000 free-range chickens.”

New piglets are arriving all the time, like nine that were born on Mother’s Day.

We’ve been in the farming business for over 30 years,” said Filion.

In the beginning, they sold mainly to retail customers but eventually began selling to restaurants which became a large portion of their business.

“Over the years our business has grown and 80% of our business was the restaurants before the pandemic hit. Now families are buying from us and realizing there’s a big difference between pasture meats in confinement raised,” Filion said.

Cindy Rossi is a customer. “I come here for just about all of my meat,” she said.

People like Rossie like to eat food raised just a few miles from her home.

“The food here is delicious and I like knowing where my food is coming from,” said Rossi. “And they have some of the very best pork and chicken and beef I’ve ever tasted, and the eggs are out of this world.”

“When the restaurants closed, we had about 225 to 150 hogs on the ground and we had 4,000 or so chickens. When we backed out the amount of business we got from the restaurants, we actually had one year worth of chicken and four years worth of hogs if we went by just what we sold at the market.”

Farmers like Filion are worried about where they might be able to sell their meat. Fortunately, customers like Rossi showed up in droves.

Filion hopes this large influx of customers continues, even after COVID-19 moves on.

“All of a sudden, after about two or three days after the restaurants closed, the phones lit up with families wanting meat.”

Restaurants are now reopening, which means it may soon be difficult to fill all of his restaurant orders.

“It slowed things down a little bit, but it’s definitely helped us get through this,” said Filion. “I think it’s gonna be something that we’re gonna be able to continue in the future.”

They are continuing to process animals weekly and meeting the needs of their current customers while looking for new customers at the same time.

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