Impact of COVID-19 on Pennsylvania farm revenue

Looking back at the 2020 season


  • Miriam Seidel Chatham University
  • Christopher D. Murakami Chatham University
  • J. Franklin Egan Pasa Sustainable Agriculture
  • Jasmine D. Pope Chatham University
  • Chia-Lin Tsai University of Northern Colorado



COVID-19, Pandemic, Agriculture, Regional Food Systems, Relief Programs, Direct to Consumer, Adaptation


Initial forecasts predicted severe financial losses for small and midsized farmers as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted usual market channels nationwide. Early reports both confirmed and challenged these fears, as some farmers could not find new markets while others established or expanded their direct-to-consumer sales to replace their lost outlets. To understand the impact of the pandemic on Pennsylvania farmers across the entire 2020 growing season, Chatham University and Pasa Sustainable Agriculture[1] surveyed farmers and performed interviews with a subset of these farmers. The anonymous survey was distributed by Pennsylvania-based farm organizations to their constituents, predominantly through email. Just under half the farmers (42%) reported a loss of revenue, while over half (58%) reported either no change or an increase in revenue in 2020. The scale of these changes varied greatly. We also found that vegetable farmers fared slightly better than livestock/eggs/dairy farmers; those with a higher pre-COVID revenue did better than those with a lower pre-COVID revenue; and farms that were able to increase direct-to-consumer sales maintained or increased their total revenues. Participation in state and federal relief programs varied and appeared to have no significant effect on farmers’ final 2020 revenue. Farmers’ responses to the open-ended survey questions demonstrated that the weather, a lack of infrastructure to support small and midsized producers, and consumers’ lack of support for a regional food system were major challenges before COVID. Without meaningful policy changes, these challenges will persist beyond the pandemic’s resolution.

Correction Notice, December 12, 2022

Data related to the Farmer to Family Food Box Program (FFFBP) was included by accident in the initial article published online. The fourth paragraph of the Results section has been corrected to delete data related to the FFFBP. In addition, the Broad Leib et al. (2021) reference was deleted from the text and References list. No other edits were made in the article.

[1] Pasa Sustainable Agriculture is a nonprofit organization that provides training, research, and technical services to farmers in Pennsylvania and throughout the mid-Atlantic region. See more at


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Author Biographies

Miriam Seidel, Chatham University

Assistant Professor, Food Studies Program, Falk School of Sustainability and Environment, Chatham University

Christopher D. Murakami, Chatham University

Assistant Professor, Food Studies Program, Falk School of Sustainability and Environment

J. Franklin Egan, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture

Education Director

Jasmine D. Pope, Chatham University

Graduate Student, Food Studies Program, Falk School of Sustainability and Environment

Chia-Lin Tsai, University of Northern Colorado

Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Statistics and Research Methods



How to Cite

Seidel, M., Murakami, C. ., Egan, J., Pope, J., & Tsai, C.-L. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on Pennsylvania farm revenue: Looking back at the 2020 season. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 11(1), 21–26.

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