Some Northland food producers are being forced to feed valuable crops to cows because Covid restrictions have closed the region's farmers' markets.
Several growers spoken to by the Advocate have been lucky with the Delta outbreak coming just as they were between harvests.
Others, however, have been hard hit with no let-up in costs or work, but no income apart from the wage subsidy, which doesn't fully cover staff costs.
One Northland egg producer is giving everything to a foodbank — a boon for struggling families but a blow to their own incomes — while one spring onion grower has reportedly been forced to plough in an entire crop.
Whangārei Growers' Market co-founder Murray Burns, who grows a wide range of produce at his Kauri property, said he had been lucky because the outbreak hit as he was between harvests and getting ready for spring crops.
A summer lockdown would cause serious problems and force growers to dump perfectly good veges.
''It's a time of the year when produce isn't growing that fast anyway. It's not as critical as it would be in three months' time when it's a lot warmer and everything's growing flat out.''
While the growers' market couldn't reopen until level 2, more fruit stores had been allowed to stay open than during last year's lockdown.
The independent shops that were still open had done a great job of rallying around and taking extra produce, he said.
At level 4 growers could take orders and do contactless deliveries, but it was a lot more work than selling at a farmers' market.
''We haven't done that this time. We've supplied a couple of retail outlets that are allowed to open, and told our customers our stuff is available there. As long as we move to level 3 quite quickly — we're hoping by the weekend — people will be able to come to the farm again to 'click and collect', as long as it's contactless.'
''We're obviously not making the same income as we would have been at level 1 but it's not a disaster either. We'd still really like to be back at level 2 when we can operate as a market again, with limited numbers.''
Martin Coates, who grows tomatoes, broccoli and kumara near Dargaville, is less fortunate.
Growers' markets are his only outlet so he's feeding his tomatoes to cows, even though they would fetch a good price if he could get them to customers.
''It's not as if work stops, it's just the income stops. Tomatoes still need training every week, they need picking every week, even if you're chucking them out. And there's ongoing crops to plant for if we ever go back to normal.''
His business was eligible for the Government's wage subsidy but at $600 per week, compared to roughly $800 per week for the minimum wage, it didn't even cover staff costs.
''I have good staff so I'm certainly not going to tell them to go home without pay. We have a Government that's very good at looking after the employed as compared to the employer. But there's not a lot you can do about it. They seem to be doing the right thing, so you've just got to wear it.''
Meanwhile, Coates was making the best of a bad situation by using the two days week he wasn't spending at markets to catch up on jobs around the property.
He was able to store his kumara until markets reopened.
Further north, Carole and Dean Allerby of Willowbrook Farm, near Kerikeri, usually grow capsicums, courgettes, cucumbers, snowpeas and eggplants for markets in the Bay of Islands and Whangārei.
Last year's ''very stressful'' lockdown landed in the middle of their tomato season.
They avoided major waste by teaming up with a food box business whose demand for deliveries tripled overnight, a well as doing contactless deliveries for customers around Kerikeri.
This time the lockdown came towards the end of their capsicums and shortly before a six-week hiatus between crops, so they had missed only two weeks of markets.
''So we were lucky with the timing — as long as it doesn't go on too long,'' Carole Allerby said.
In the meantime, Burns urged Northlanders to support the independent fruit and vegetable shops that were open, for example at Huanui, Tutukaka and Waipapa.
He said growers knew the Delta strain would eventually arrive in New Zealand.
''You prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Most growers are pretty adaptable and would have had some sort of plan in place.''