COVID-19 Farmers Update 3/22/2020

— Written By

COVID-19 Farmers Update 3/22/2020

Dear strawberry and farming community,

With harvest season coming up soon and a world which is rapidly changing, a lot of questions are on my mind and I am sure on yours as well. The good news is that the Government is working on H2-A visas and the USDA has set up a special email to address any concerns regarding H2-A labor: aglabor@usda.gov . Please send an email to this address if you have any concerns about your H2-A labor force.

Several Farming related resources are developed by NC State:

NC State Horticulture COVID-19 Farming Resources

NC State Horticulture COVID-19 Food Safety Resources

COVID-19 Numbers:

As of 3/22/2020, 10:16 a.m.: a total of 6,438 people in NC were tested for the new Coronavirus. 255 people in NC were tested positive. Until now, NC has no COVID-19 related death.

NCDHHS Coronavirus Information Page

As of 3/22/2020, 6:13 p.m.: 329,935 people worldwide are known to be infected with the virus, and 14,450 people have died due to COVID-19.

World-Wide Covid-19 GIS Tracker  

Our survey:

Please take our COVID-19 Survey. This is important to us in such a situation. No-one of us has ever experienced something like this before nor were we prepared. We need to know what you think, so that we can respond better to this emergency. The survey is anonymous and will only take 3 min.

TAKE OUR COVID-19 SURVEY

Food Safety:

Regulations will impact harvest, packaging, transportation and sales as well as consumer education on food safety. Natalie Seymour and Benjamin Chapman from North Carolina State University have developed a comprehensive guideline on food safety, which can be found here:  NC State Farming Resources. The FDA has released a temporary policy regarding preventative controls during the COVID-19 outbreak.

NC State Horticulture COVID-19 Food Safety Resources

COVID-19 Farmers Market Guidelines

COVID-19 U-Pick Guidelines

COVID-19 Community Garden Guidelines

Sales and marketing:

It may become difficult to make sufficient sales to your customers, using your normal way of operations. NOW is the time to think about alternative marketing approaches. Use social media, especially facebook and instagram to sell your produce, set up pick-up stands, think about using food delivery services such as Uber-Eats, door-dash or Grubhub to get your produce to the customer. Take online and call-in orders, if you can. See also NC States Local Food Recommendations and find more details in our NC State Horticulture COVID-19 Farming Resources page. You might benefit from the situation, if people want to come out an pick strawberries. Please be ready for pick-up orders, have disinfectants available, and avoid any interpersonal contact between customers and between you and your customers. Helpful ideas are:

  • Online or social media pick-up orders
  • Pick-up stands
  • Crowd limitation on pick your own stands

If you want to set up an online store quick and efficient, there are several software and cloud solutions available: Shopify, Go-daddy, Adobe Magento Commerce, squarespace, big commerce and many more. 

Farmers markets are technically considered grocery stores, so they are not required to close down. But the typical clientele may be nervous to visit a farmers market, and some markets have closed down anyways in order to protect the health and safety of their community. Despite these roadblocks, there are plenty of options for farms to make sales and provide fresh meat and produce to people who especially need it during this health crisis. please find more details in our NC State Horticulture COVID-19 Farming Resources page. 

How to help your community?

Please think about how you can help you local community in two ways: How can you keep people safe? And how can you make sure that people have necessary food and nutrition supply? Please work with churches and other community leaders together. We are all in this together. More on possibilities to work with communities on our NC State Horticulture COVID-19 Farming Resources page. Please also find the CEFS response, contact the interfaith food shuttle and the community food peer network if you want to help!

I hope everyone stays safe and healthy,

Mark