AS hospitality restrictions begin to ease in SA, fruit and vegetable producers have described the situation as being "in limbo", as they wait for markets to return.
When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the shut down of restaurants and cafes, many local fruit and vegetable producers lost key customers.
The planting season had just finished for Uraidla vegetable growers Richard and Tara Cobbledick when coronavirus hit the state.
As restaurants closed and wholesalers scaled back their buys, they lost more than 50 per cent of their trade.
The couple also supply to retailers (10 to 20pc of their trade) and have a roadside stall (20pc), but realised they needed to sell more to minimise the losses and decided on made-to-order produce boxes.
"Once the restrictions came in, all our niche crops were at stages from emergence to near maturity," Mr Cobbledick said.
"We didn't have time to adjust."
They decided to go back to an old idea, selling boxes of fresh produce direct to consumers.
"We had always considered doing produce boxes, but when we first started the stall it was put on hold," Mr Cobbledick said.
"That all changed when the coronavirus set in - it gave us the motivation to get it up and going.
"Between the stall, which has become very popular, and now the produce boxes, we have been able to recoup a little bit, but not everything.
"Some vegetables we will have to chop back into the ground."
The Cobbledicks crop twice a year, with cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and leeks grown on a large scale.
"We also grow more specialised golden, candy and red beetroots, baby turnips and watermelon radish for the restaurant trade," Mr Cobbledick said.
"Some restaurants continue to source them from us for their own produce boxes, but they also now feature in our produce boxes to provide customers with more variety."
More recently, they also started trialing Asian greens - wombok, pak choy, choy sum - which have proved popular for not being hydroponically grown.
Mr Cobbledick sells at the SA Produce Market in Pooraka five days a week, where he also sources fruit and vegetables from other SA growers for the stall and produce boxes.
The produce boxes have only been available since the end of March, but they now sell up to 50 a week.
"That has been with very little marketing," he said.
"I think there is still a considerable amount of promotion we could be doing, even just in the local area here.
"We have found that most of our customers are from outside the district, including Adelaide, Mount Barker and even as far as Cape Jervis."
The couple takes orders for the boxes on their Cobbledick Produce - The Stall Facebook and Instagram pages, where Tara, who is a qualified chef, also posts recipe ideas.
"People have really enjoyed that because then when they come to our stall, or get one of our boxes, it gives them an idea of what they can do with the produce at home," Ms Cobbledick said.
While restaurants have begun reopening, albeit with restricted numbers. the Cobbledicks are yet to see any positive impact on their business.
Mr Cobbledick questioned whether restaurants were able to be viable yet to open.
While they will continue with the boxes, Mr Cobbledick says planning ahead for plantings is difficult.
We've seen people really embrace buying local produce, particularly from independent retailers.- Penny Reidy, campaign manager, Pick a Local, Pick SA
"We do have COVID-19 in the back of our mind, and it won't last forever," he said.
"If they're opening restaurants to a certain percentage now and don't have any more cases, that's what we've got to plan for."
But he said there was also caution in case a second wave left them with an excess of produce again.
She said much of this came from the way a number of small businesses adapted and "stepped up" with deliveries and click-and-go to "fill the gap".
"We've seen people really embrace buying local produce, particularly from independent retailers," she said.
She said there was a period when larger supermarkets had stopped home deliveries, which enabled smaller retailers to capitalise and meet demand.
She said the restaurant trade was slowly returning, but she expected many of these new initiatives, which maintained demand for locally-grown, fresh produce, would continue.
"There are people looking to stay in and cook at home a bit more and local retailers are seeing that," she said.