BIG PRARIE, Ohio (WJW) — The owner of a produce market in Holmes County has transformed his business into a “generosity curve” of sorts for his community during this COVID-19 crisis.
**For more on the market, watch the Facebook video at the bottom of this page**
Harvey Mast, who owns Harvey’s Market, along with lots of help from his family, volunteers and the public, has been able to get nearly 200,000 pounds of produce to those who have been impacted by the pandemic.
And he’s doing it with a “self-serve, by donation only” policy through May 1 without taking any profit to support the business, which is closed during the winter months.
It all started late last month. In a Facebook post, Harvey said anyone who needed fresh produce could get one of seven COVID-19 “butt-kicking boxes” from his market at 12636 State route 39 in Big Prairie.
The boxes were soon all taken.
So he asked the community on Facebook to leave items they may have in excess and that other people could use. Those items kept adding up — and so did money.
“One day, I checked the cash box,” he said. “Somebody, and they were not supposed to, left money in that box. I wanted it to go back to the community.”
So he purchased 500 pounds of potatoes with the money. The potatoes were gone by that evening.
“It just really snowballed and got a life of its own,” he said. “People began to put money in my cash box. I had to put two up, because one just wasn’t doing it anymore. I thought I solved the cash problem, but I found out the community was too generous. (The $300) turned into $800, which turned into $1,000, and yesterday I spent $14,000 for a semi full of produce.”
The stock kept growing, and his cash box is frequently replenished with donated money.
The items in the market do not have price tags. Customers can pay whatever they can for the items. He does provide price lists to give customers an idea of what the items usually cost.
Customers are asked only to social distance, make their visits quick and not linger, and take only what they need. They’re asked to pay what they can, but if they can’t, that’s fine, too. They’re asked to wash their hands before and after and to wear masks.
Mast said in a Facebook post: “We want you to decide what you can afford. Only each family knows that. 100% of all donations will go back into buying more fresh fruit and veggies this is what we do well. Pay if you can afford it and don’t if you can’t. It’s that simple.”
The market is unstaffed and is open 24/7.
Mast actually put together a “Generosity Curve” chart — a play off of the COVID-19 ‘flattening the curve’ theme — which shows the huge amounts of donations that have made the market boom.
“As you can see, the curve has not flattened at all,” he said. “This last couple days here, we’re running through 20,000 pounds of produce a day.”
The market will operate as is until May 1. After that, he must return to normal so his business can make money. But he said his market will buy any leftover food paid for with community donations, and and those funds will go toward gift cards, which he’ll hand out to those who need them.
He sees this community effort stretching far beyone May 1.
“I really believe the hard times are left to come,” he said. “This is changing our community for the better. It’s paying it forward. It’s really been an incredible thing that we’re really enjoying.”
For more on the market, including how to donate, click here.
Watch the video below for more on grocery and carry-out safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.