COVID-19: Farming Resources
(This page is updated every Wednesday evening. Last update 04/01/2020)
- General COVID-19 Knowledge
- How Can I Help My Community?
- Food Safety
- Staff Management and Labor
- Supply Chain
- Statewide Farmers market status
- Financial Help
- Alternative Sales
- Automation / Mechanization
- Statewide N.C. Cooperative Extension County Center Update
- Agri-tourism and Viticulture Resources
- How to cope with stress on a farm?
Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee
Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee (PDF) The organization should complete and sign the form, which their designated employees can keep with them during necessary work activities and travel.
Letter to N.C. Law Enforcement Regarding Essential Food and Agriculture Employees (PDF) NCDA&CS sent this letter on March 25, 2020, to the five largest law enforcement associations in North Carolina to provide notice about essential employees in the agriculture industry of North Carolina. We are sharing here so our farm and agribusiness contacts can have a copy for their records.
Webinars (as of 04/01/2020)
- Recorded webinar from Penn State Extension: Farmers Market Management Forum – Best practices under COVID-19
- Recorded webinar from AgriSafe Learning Lab: What Ag Producers Need to Know about COVID-19
- Recorded webinar from PASA: COVID-19 Guidelines for Farmers and Markets
- April 2, 2020 @ 12 p.m.: Cornell Extension Open Office Hours to Answer COVID-19 Questions
- April 3, 2020 @ 10 a.m.: Cornell University: You farm and produce under COVID-19
- Every Tuesday 9:30-10 CT: Farm Credit Services of America: Understanding Covid-19 and the Impact on Ag
- April 23, 2020 12:30 – 1 p.m. CT: Farm Credit Services of America: Spring 2020 Outlook
COVID-19 is a viral infectious disease caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2 or SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 has impacted over 100 countries all over the world and has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). At the moment, there is no cure for COVID-19.
In our home state of North Carolina, there have been 1,584 cases (as of 04/1/2020) and 10 COVID-19 related deaths. Measures such as social distancing, the closure of all K-12 schools, restaurants, and prohibition of gatherings of 10 or more people, restrictions on travel have affected everyone, but are necessary to slow the spread of the virus. Farmers and agri-tourism are facing multiple challenges, from feeding their communities amid concerns of contamination to laying off staff and workers due to enforced closures.
We want to assure you that N.C. Cooperative Extension is still with you, and will help you to get through this crisis.
Regulations are necessary to ‘buy’ time, to develop vaccines and enough testing possibilities, and to slow down the pandemic (‘flatten the curve’). Ignoring or downplaying the problem makes as little sense as engaging in a hysteria.
Currently, to help mitigate the spread of the virus, many people, including many of us in Extension, are working from home. However, working from inside a home often is not an option in agriculture, especially not with a busy spring season starting. We know that many emergency regulations and recommendations are already affecting your business, and will most likely have long-lasting effects on you and your neighbors. In this document, we try to keep you updated on the most pressing questions and issues regarding the pandemic:
If part of your company has to be closed due to regulations:
- Can sales be moved online?
- Can we function as a ‘store’ rather than a tourism place?
- How can I make sure that my staff will be able to pay their bills, even if I have to lay them off?
- Are there possibilities for reimbursement from the state/federal government?
If part of your company (or all of it) is operational:
- What are the food safety concerns?
- How do I have to organize my labor force?
- How to manage and attract customers in a safe space, despite the pandemic?
- Work-flow optimization and new technologies.
- What are alternative sales options?
- How can I help the community?
We have developed a comprehensive list of resources for you to use:
1) General COVID-19 Knowledge
North Carolinas’ Governor Cooper as issued a stay-at-home order, going into effect on Mar 30, 5 p.m. As recognized by the Secretary of Agriculture as well as the Commissioner of NC, agriculture is an essential part of this country and our state. Agriculture employees who go to work, but should carry the Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee (PDF) form with them at any time.
During the COVID-19 crisis, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) will continue to receive, store and ship USDA Foods and Farm to School produce to all eligible recipient agencies with changes to the operating procedure to enhance social distancing. The NCDA & CS Emergency Program serves works closely with local communities to support agrosecurity, agricultural emergency preparedness and recovery, and rapid response technology efforts by establishing public-private partnerships between vital government agencies, industry, and volunteers.
We recommend to wear gloves when getting in contact with customers and perform distancing practices at all times. If possible, move contacts into open field settings. Washing hands frequently and not touching face and mouth parts are imperative for your own safety. Please see our NC State Extension Food Safety Resources for details.
- NC State Extension COVID-19 Portal
- NC State Extension Food Safety Resources (Comprehensive information on hygiene and food safety for Home/Garden; Retail; U-pick; Farmers-markets)
- NCDA&CS Coronavirus Homepage
- NCDHHS: Coronavirus
- NC Governor Cooper Press Releases
- NC food distribution as response to Covid-19
- US Department of Education
- CDC: Coronavirus
- WHO: Coronavirus
- Research Study on Aerosol and Surface Survival on SARS-CoV-2
2) How Can I Help My Community?
The question of how to help your community is particularly difficult given the need to physically isolate ourselves from others. However, we are all in this together, and many people will need the help to get access to food and nutrition. As the ones who produce food, we have a responsibility to serve in a time of crisis. Several questions will have to be answered: How can communities come together when they can’t physically be in the same room or less than 6 feet apart? How can we work with organizations to make sure that the most vulnerable of our society will not go hungry? There are plenty of ways that people, particularly farmers, can help during these uncertain times.
- Take extra cautious food safety measures. We’ve outlined food safety regulations in the next chapter, but it is worth repeating that food safety measures mean more to the customer right now than they have in the past. Make sure that all employees are trained on proper handling and that they have easy access to sanitation measures while on the job.
- Support laid-off workers in any way you can. Given the fact that the H-2A labor force will be smaller this growing season, farms may be short of staff. If it makes sense for your business, consider hiring those in your community who are out of work during this crisis. Please also think about using the NC Farm Link homepage and contact your local Extension Agent if you are in need of labor
- Donate excess or “ugly” produce to food shelters. If you expect to have a surplus this season, or if you never know what to do with the produce that isn’t up to grocery store standard, consider donating. People may need more help now than they have in the past in terms of getting access to fresh produce. Talk to your local food shelters and ask if they could benefit from your donation.
- Coordinate with your local farmers market to provide customers with the safest and healthiest shopping experience. If you sell your produce at a local farmers market, talk to those in charge about extra safety precautions that vendors and customers can take. Every farm and market will have different solutions according to community needs, so find what works best for the health of those around you. One solution farmers in the triangle have already taken is to convert to online ordering so customers can order online and then pick up a package of their produce in person. This minimizes the number of people who come into contact with produce, the customer, and yourself. Find resources for setting up online ordering below.
- Communicate. It’s incredibly important to talk to your fellow community members. Open communication will help you understand the needs of your town and how you can best serve it. Whether it’s labor, supplies, or food, you won’t know how to provide assistance if you don’t know who needs help and what they need help with.
- Join a food service program. Under the COVID-19 emergency statue, the USDA has issued waiver approvals enabling Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO) sponsors to serve meals in a non-congregate setting and at school sites during school closures related to the coronavirus. Please get in contact with your local Farm Bureau representative to coordinate with those programs.
- Please reach out to local churches and community leaders to support the needs of your community during this time.
- Please find resources from CEFS to support our community. CEFS is establishing a list of resources for agricultural production, education, and consumers
For all of us:
- Food Bank is committed to serving those in need.
- North Carolina Center for Nonprofits provides comprehensive resources for nonprofit organizations in response to COVID-19.
- CFWNC and Dogwood Health Trust partnered to respond to COVID-19 (click here to know more).
- Participate in volunteer work. NCDHHS asks for health care medical supplies, volunteers and medical professionals to provide patient care and assist with COVID-19.
- Get in contact with nonprofits and find out how you and your operations can help. Here some NC State Networks:
- Community Food Peer Network (NC State Institute Issues)
- Inter-Faith Food Shuttle
- Free online order form setup
- Information pertaining to the Asheville, NC, farmers market
- Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina
- NCDHHS Coronavirus Response
- Dogwood Health Trust COVID-19 Response (Western NC)
- ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, a nonprofit in Asheville, NC) is supporting farmers in adapting to this particular time.
- CEFS Food System Events and Trainings Related to COVID-19 March 31st update. Contains a list of events and trainings intended to support farmers, workers, consumers, businesses and others working in the food system during this new reality of social distancing. https://cefs.ncsu.edu/covid-19/events-and-trainings/
3) 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 University Farming Resources. The FDA as released temporary policy regarding preventative controls during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- NC State Extension Food Safety Resources
- (Comprehensive information on hygiene and food safety for Home/Garden; Retail; U-pick; Farmers-markets)
- Farmers Market Sheet (pdf)
- U-Pick Sheet (pdf)
- FDA Covid-19 information page
- FDA temporary policy regarding preventative controls during the COVID-19 outbreak
- NC ABC Legal Announcement
- US Department of Agriculture: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
- CDC Food Safety and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Food Industry Association Coronavirus Resources
4) Staff Management
Since 04/01/2020, the USDA is collecting information on the ability to access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) To indicate what your individual farm/nursery needs are please click on the excel form and forward to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line (Name of Farm or Nursery) PPE/Sanitization Needs.
If you are unsure how to complete the excel form you can also send your PPE needs directly to Robin Tutor from the NC Agromedicine Institute. Email the following information to email@example.com
- Type of respirators used (e.g., N95, half face, full face)
- Type of filters/cartridges used (e.g., particulate filter (P100), P100/organic vapor, P100/acid gas (fumigants)
- Number of respirators needed for the year
- Number of filters or combination cartridges needed for the year (by type)
The federal government is working on H2-A visas and the USDA has set up a special email to address or to voice any concerns regarding H2-A labor: firstname.lastname@example.org . Please email this address if you have any concerns about your H2-A labor force.
- Notice of Essential Food and Agriculture Employee (PDF) The organization should complete and sign the form, which their designated employees can keep with them during necessary work activities and travel.
- Letter to N.C. Law Enforcement Regarding Essential Food and Agriculture Employees (PDF) NCDA&CS sent this letter on March 25, 2020, to the five largest law enforcement associations in North Carolina to provide notice about essential employees in the agriculture industry of North Carolina. We are sharing here so our farm and agribusiness contacts can have a copy for their records.
- Make sure that all your stuff has Personal Protective Equipment available!
- Please use the NC Farm Link homepage and contact your local Extension Agent if you are in need of labor or if you need to lay off people. You will help them and your community.
- Develop a contingency plan for your staff. Each producing company has no choice than to keep producing, otherwise business is over. Upholding the production of food is essential during a pandemic. However, to ensure the health of the public, all labor forces should obey regulations and recommendations. A contingency plan will help to organize and manage your labor force. Include full-time, temporary labor and H-2A workers into the plan. What are the responsibilities? How can you create physical and timely distance between your staff? Are there hygiene products available? How do you instruct staff on new work environments? Are there staff members who can work remotely? Who is essential, who can be working from home? How is staff transported? Will staff be tested for SARS-CoV-2?
- Prepare for smaller work crews. As of Monday (3/16), the U.S. embassy in Mexico City will no longer process people for the H-2A program who require in-person interviews. This includes people who did not participate in the program last year. The U.S. embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, has shut down completely, and international flights will shut down from 3/22 through 4/12. This could mean labor shortages throughout the state and country as growing seasons ramp up. Make a plan that recognizes the possibility of a labor shortage, and at the same time use local sources for potential labor. There is a good chance that local unemployment will increase over the coming weeks and months. Think about the following questions: What can you achieve if your typical staff is cut by 10% or 20%? What are your adjusted expectations in terms of harvesting, planting, weeding, and overall management capacity?
- Maintain strong communication with your employees. The COVID-19 case is rapidly evolving, so it is important that you stay educated on any and all important information. It is just as important to then ensure that your employees are up-to-date on any information as it relates to their health, their work, and their families. The CDC has plenty of resources available, and links to resources in Spanish are listed at the end of this section. Consider printing out resources and posting them in break rooms, or printing out enough copies for everyone to have one. What’s most important is for everyone to stay educated, and for information to be passed along calmly.
- What to do if an employee tests positive for SARS-CoV-2. The question of what to do if an employee falls ill is especially important for the agricultural sector. It’s important to keep in mind that many H-2A workers rely on hourly wages, and they often live in close quarters with fellow farmworkers. If one employee is sick, it is possible that others have been infected, too. Things to consider when developing a plan for workers with the virus could include:
- Talk to your local health department. They may have specific guidance on how to respond to a sick employee and instructions on how to keep yourself and your coworkers safe.
- Consider your policies concerning paid or unpaid sick leave. For example, local health services may be overrun, so it is reasonable to reconsider a doctor’s note requirement in order to give someone the day off. Another question that may be worth asking is: because farmworkers rely on hourly wages, should I expand possibilities for paid sick leave so that workers feel better about reporting symptoms? Every farm operates differently, so review your policies and make the best decisions for the health and stability of your employees and yourself.
- Sanitation practices are important whether an employee falls ill or not. But if one does, it is important to develop a plan that ensures all coworkers are not exposed to COVID-19. Things to consider are how frequently equipment and common spaces are cleaned, whether to transport farmworkers in one vehicle or multiple, etc.
- English and Spanish COVID-19 Infosheets
- Multi-language print resources
- NCDHHS COVID-19 Mitigation Measures
- COVID-19 Restrictions on U.S. Visas and Entry
5) Supply Chain
Farmers face a difficult task feeding communities during this time. Despite the need for healthy, fresh produce during a health crisis, the avenues that get produce to people are shrinking or closing down. Restaurants and farmers markets have shut down or reduced operations, and people’s food budgets are consumed by more nonperishables. While no concrete information has come out pertaining to how COVID-19 will affect the produce industry throughout the growing season, here are some things to consider:
- Important for farmers who lost access to markets due to COVID-19 market disruptions: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture is aware that farmers have seen disruptions in their normal distribution during this period of COVID-19 and social distancing. Retailers have seen panic buying patterns and are challenged to keep produce in stock and merchandised. If you are a NC produce grower and looking to sell products that you don’t have a market for, we want to know. We will be compiling information, from NC growers, to distribute to major retailers on a weekly basis. This is not to be used as an alternate for markets that you already have. This service is set up to help those who don’t have markets to sell what they would normally. Call us weekly to update your availability and be listed in the distribution. This service will last until we no longer see a major need from the growers or interest from the retailers. Read more here.
- Grocery stores, farmers markets, and farms are considered essential businesses under the NC stay at home order. This means that these businesses can continue to operate. If you are a farmer or farmhand, please fill out and keep this document on your person when you leave your home to work. It will notify anyone questioning you that you are allowed to work outside your home under the statewide order.
- Determine the best outlets for your product. The normal avenues between growers and consumers may change. For example, some farms may not be able to offer U-Pick anymore due to concerns over disease spread. Be prepared to find alternative ways to sell your produce. Start making connections with grocery stores, processing plants, and other companies that you normally wouldn’t have worked with if you foresee issues with your current outlets. See the NCDA resource listed above or the NC map of intermediary businesses in the food supply chain to gather resources.
- Look to your local communities. In times like these, it is almost always beneficial to look to your community for help. Whether that means selling directly to your neighbors, coordinating with farmers markets, or selling to smaller, locally owned stores, find people within your community who could support you and vice versa.
- Prepare for price fluctuations. The FAO Food Price Index saw prices for cereals, vegetable oil, and meat drop from January to February. However, dairy and sugar prices increased. For now, it is unclear how COVID-19 will affect the vegetable, fruit, and wine industry, if at all. But it is still important to make business plans that would best respond to a drop in market price or demand for your products. The FAO also put together a Q&A page responding to common questions pertaining to COVID-19’s impact on food and agriculture.
- How to operate a UPick operation during the COVID-19 pandemic
- USDA Coronavirus Updates
- Mapped inventory of businesses that serve as intermediary steps in local food supply chains
6) Statewide Farmers-market status (4/01/2020)
What are your farmer’s markets doing in response to the outbreak? Here is a list of various markets throughout the state and their operating status (as of 3/24). We cannot cover every market and outlet in the state, so please make sure to check the status of your outlets if they are not listed below.
- Asheville City Market: Closed until further notice; an interim market site is on the A-B Tech campus in Asheville and is open Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- Carrboro Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.; and Wednesdays 3 – 6 p.m.
- Chapel Hill Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Tuesdays 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; see website for social distancing and sanitation protocol
- Charlotte Regional Farmers Market: Open Tuesday-Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Davidson Farmers Market: Closed until May 2, 2020, at the earliest
- Durham Farmers Market: Closed until further notice
- Eno River Farmers Market: Closed until further notice
- Foothills Farmers Market: Opening day (4/4/2020) postponed; see their social media for vendor-specific sales and information
- Gastonia Farmers Market: Opening April 4, 2020, as originally planned; all scheduled events postponed until further notice
- Greensboro Farmers Curb Market: Closed until further notice; See website to get information on specific vendors
- Hickory Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- High Country Food Hub: Open, order online Thursday through Monday, pick-up wednesday between 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Holly Springs Farmers Market: Open 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 4 & 18, 2020; 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. May 2 through mid-October
- Lexington Farmers Market: Opening Day is May 2, 2020, as scheduled
- Matthews Community Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Moore County Farmers Market: Open Thursdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Mount Holly Farmers Market: Opening Day is May 9, 2020, as scheduled
- Nash County Farmers Market in Rocky Mount: Open on Saturday, April 4th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Piedmont Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. @ Winecoff location
- Rutherford County Farmers Market: Open as a drive-through market 4/4/2020
- Salisbury Farmers Market: Opening day is April 18, 2020, as scheduled
- South Durham Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- State Farmers Market (Raleigh): Open; see website for various vendors’ market hours
- Transylvania Farmers Market: Open Saturday 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. with drive-up service (see website for details)
- Vance County Farmers Market: Opening day is Apr 25, 2020, operating procedures in the making
- Wake Forest Farmers Market: Open Saturdays 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; see website for social distancing and sanitation protocol
- Watauga County Farmers Market: Opening Day is May 2, 2020, as scheduled
- Western Wake Farmers Market: Closed until April 11, 2020; hosting pre-order pickup stations at new location (see website for details)
- WNC Farmers Market: Open daily 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Zebulon Farmers Market: Open in May as scheduled
7) Financial Help
Many businesses will be affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. RAFI-USA will be offering emergency mini-grants for NC farmers who have experienced a drastic loss of income as a result of the virus and need immediate assistance for household expenses. Congress also signed into law the $2 Trillion stimulus package on 3/27/2020. Several key points can be considered pertaining to the stimulus package and other financial relief efforts:
- CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act): In total, approx. $49 billion will be used as stimuli of the agriculture sector (or 0.0245% of the total $2 trillion stimulus package). $9.5 billion (or 19% of all agriculture-related funding) will be received by the USDA to directly aid farmers and ranchers. Approx. 50% of the funding assists food and nutrition programs. 2% ($916 million) will be used to replenish staff positions in key mission areas. Please read this article from the Farm Bureau for more details.
- NC Rapid Recovery Loan Program launched for small businesses with a funding source of $15 million. Managed by the NC Rural Center, loans can be given to eligible businesses for up to $50,000 with zero interest and no payments for up to six months. See the news release for more information.
- Facebook it offering Small Business Grants ($100Million for up to 30,000 businesses)
- Can labor be used in other areas of my business? Staff members who plan events, serve food/beverages or who work on farm stands could be used for other tasks on the farm. Spring season is coming up and you might need help planting/harvesting.
- Do you have business partners who could pick up some of your staff? Leaving staff unemployed is the last thing a small business owner wants to do, but during this pandemic it’s sometimes not avoidable. Finding other employment opportunities for them over the time will help your staff to survive this challenging time.
- RAFI-USA has announced to help NC farmers by issuing mini-grants for affected businesses. Please sign up to receive updates via email directly from RAFI. They also have a page dedicated to various other financial resources.
- In connection with the Presidentially declared COVID-19 national emergency, USDA’s Rural Development has placed a foreclosure and eviction moratorium on all USDA Single Family Housing Direct (SFHD) loans for 60 days effective March 19, 2020. Under the moratorium, foreclosures on borrowers with USDA SFHD loans will be completely suspended. USDA will not initiate, process, or complete any foreclosures during this time. Similarly, evictions of persons from properties secured by USDA SFHD loans are also suspended for a period of 60 days.
- If you are in need of nutrition or food assistance, here are some links to helpful resources:
- Meals for kids during school closures
- NCDHHS Adult Nutrition Services
- Food Finder: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina
- Various other financial solutions have sprouted throughout communities, nonprofits, state governments, and the national government. Go to your state or local government’s website to find more information on financial resources. And see below for important resources that we have found for you.
- 3-Step Process for Getting SBA Disaster Loans
- Ag Americas
- The Community Foundation of Western NC Emergency and Disaster Response Fund
- COVID-19 Relief for Student Loan Borrowers
- Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog FAQ’s for Employers
- Department of Labor COVID-19 Response (Unemployment Insurance Flexibilities, Support for dislocated workers and states, Supporting workforce needs in the agricultural sector, etc.)
- Disaster Assistance in Response to the Coronavirus
- Foreclosure and eviction moratorium on all USDA Single Family Housing Direct (SFHD) loans for 60 days effective 3/19/2020
- Important Notice: NC Department of Revenue Provides Penalty Relief to Persons Affected by COVID-19
- Meals for kids during school closures
- NC 2-1-1 (Helps families and individuals find information and resources in their community. (Health Tips)
- NC State Government COVID-19 Response Page
- NCDOR issues a limited-waiver of certain penalties on failure to file or pay a tax due between March 14, 2020 and March 31, 2020
- Outer Banks Community Foundation Rapid Response Grants
8) Alternative Sales
For farms that rely on local markets to sell their products, it may become difficult to make sales to their typical customers. 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.
- First, talk to your farmers market to determine what resources they have available to you. Many markets throughout NC have already developed possible solutions for their vendors. If you haven’t already, talk to those in charge of the market you participate in. They may have procedures already in place to help you get your product to paying customers in an easy and safe way. They may also require collaboration or input from farmers, so prepare to offer any advice or help if they ask for it.
- Consider a safe and healthy U-Pick option. For farms that can offer this type of experience, it’s important to take the necessary steps to keep yourself and your customers healthy. Take a look at the COVID-19 FAQ for U-Pick Farms document for helpful information that will keep you and your clientele protected from virus transmission. A guide on how to run a UPick operation during the COVID-19 pandemic was also developed, and you can find it in the March 29 NCSU Extension COVID-19 daily farmers update.
- Set up alternative pick-up sites or coordinate delivery services. Alternative sites for pick-up can help farmers sell their produce if U-Pick, farmers markets, or grocery stores are out of the question. Establish a place customers can go to each week until things get back to normal. Or, if you have the capacity, consider delivering produce door-to-door.
- Take online or call-in orders. Online ordering is another great way to minimize person-to-person interactions. There are plenty of free, online ordering form services (see below). Farmers can also consider creating a google form or taking calls for pre-orders.
- Communicate your alternative sales methods to customers. Communication can take place on your website, the market’s website, your social media, and/or email chains. Make sure to clearly communicate what products you’re offering, how people can place orders, how people can pay, the deadline for online orders, and where they can pick up their purchases. It’s also important to be up-front about how you are following food safety protocols.
- Always follow health department guidance. Whether you continue to sell at a farmers market or if you’ve developed an alternative sales method, it is important to follow health and safety guidelines. Ensure that people interacting with customers in-person are aware of the precautions they need to take and are well supplied with the necessary sanitation supplies. See the health and safety resources listed below.
- Cornell Small Farms: How to Build Market Resistance
- COVID-19 FAQ for U-Pick Farms (pdf)
- Farmers Market Health and Safety Guidelines
- Free, online ordering form service
- Gatherings of Less than 50 People Guidelines
- How to create a google order form video (YouTube)
- NCSU Local Food Recommendation
9) Automation / Mechanization
Remote farming solutions and automated farming solutions can not only safe money, in a pandemic, when labor is sacred, possibly sick and hard to find, some solution might help to keep your business operationable. Several Ag-Tech Start-up companies offer remote watering, harvesting, and nutrition monitoring solutions. North Carolina has one of the highest densities of Ag Tech Companies and AgTech Clusters. We highly recommend for you to take advantage of this close proximity of innovation. Look at the solutions they have and evaluate if they make sense for you and your operation, during this pandemic and beyond. Possible solutions could be: Remote watering systems; Remote disease detection systems; Harvest worker GPS tracking and other solutions will be possible.
Tractor-based mechanized tasks are other ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on your farm, and possibly to save costs on a long-run. Mechanized hedging, flower and leaf pulling, tillage, and mechanized harvesting will require usually less labor.
- NC State University Plant Science Initiative AG Tech Homepage
- Ag Tech Companies in the Research Triangle
- AgTech Cluster Triangle.
- Article on Mechanization in Farming
10) N.C. Cooperative Extension County Centers Update (4/01/2020)
- Alamance Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to walk-ins as a preventive health measure. You can still reach us by phone and email.
- Alexander Co. Cooperative Extension Center has closed their local office. You can still reach agents by calling the office number or by email.
- Alleghany Co. Cooperative Extension Center has closed their office to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will still be answering calls and emails.
- Anson Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed for COVID-19 precautious. While they are closed to the public, the staff is available by phone and email.
- Ashe Co. Cooperative Extension Center closes to the public currently due to COVID-19 protocol. They are available for phone calls at (336)-846-5850.
- Avery Co. Cooperative Extension Center has postponed all scheduled events, meetings and programs due to COVID-19 protocol.
- Beaufort Co. Cooperative Extension Center has closed their office until further notice. But they are still available by phone (252-946-0111).
- Bertie Co. Cooperative Extension Center temporarily closed their office. Their staff is still available to assist you. Please give them a call at (252)794-5317.
- Bladen Co. Cooperative Extension Center closed their office to the public until further notice. You can contact them via phone, text, or email.
- Brunswick Co. Cooperative Extension Center is required to limit personal interactions. Please CALL or EMAIL the office or individual staff members.
- Buncombe Co. Cooperative Extension Center has closed the office until further notice. For assistance during this time, click on the “Meet Our Staff” tab in the webpage to find the appropriate email contact.
- Burke Co. Cooperative Extension Center is limiting access to the public, except by appointment. Agents are available via phone and email at this time.
- Cabarrus Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public. Staff are still available by phone and email.
- Caldwell Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public. Contact them at 757.1290 or email@example.com.
- Camden Co. Cooperative Extension Center office access is by appointment only. Please call 252-331-7639 for more information.
- Carteret Co. Cooperative Extension Center building on the community college campus has been locked due to COVID-19 concerns, please call 252-222-6352 for assistance.
- Caswell Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed for COVID-19 precautions.
- Catawba Co. Cooperative Extension Center encourages people to reach out to Extension Agents for assistance via email and phone.
- Chatham Co. Cooperative Extension Center encourages community members to continue to reach out to Extension professionals for technical assistance via email and phone.
- Chowan Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public. Staff are available by phone or email for assistance, (252)482-6585.
- Clay Co. Cooperative Extension Center doesn’t allow visitors in the office but staff can be contacted at 828-389-6305 or by email.
- Columbus Co. Cooperative Extension Center has closed the office to the public. All classes and meetings are cancelled until further notice. Please contact their office by emailing individual staff members, or by calling. Please see “Meet our Staff” tab for contact information.
- Craven Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed. Contact the office by phone or email.
- Cumberland Co. Cooperative Extension Center is currently closed to staff and all visitors. For assistance please call 910-321-6860
- Currituck Co. Cooperative Extension Center offers access by appointment only. Please call to schedule an appointment.
- Dare Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public until further notice. Staff are still available via phone or email.
- Davie Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public, and all employees working remotely. Please call for assistance.
- Durham Co. Cooperative Extension Center building is closed. Email and phone services available. See news article on website for available services.
- EBCI center is closed. Please check the “Meet the Staff” tab to find phone numbers and emails.
- Edgecombe Co. Cooperative Extension Center closed the building to the public. Staff will be ready to help you via phone or email
- Forsyth Co. Cooperative Extension Center encourages all members of the public to conduct business without coming into the Extension Office. Please call us at 336-703-2850.
- Franklin Co. Cooperative Extension Center is still open daily with limited staff, but at this time all programs, classes and events are postponed until further notice.
- Guilford Co. Cooperative Extension Center is temporarily closed to the public, but agents are still working and available. Please call 336-641-2400 for assistance.
- Halifix Co. Cooperative Extension Center office is closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. You may email any agent for assistance or via phone through their extensions.
- Harnett Co Cooperative Extension Center Harnett County Government Buildings are closed for public access. You can continue to reach the center by email or phone.
- Haywood Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public. Find staff emails and phone numbers under the “Meet Our Staff” tab.
- Henderson Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed, but service is available by phone or email.
- Hertford Co. Cooperative Extension encourages the public to conduct business via phone and/or email with staff.
- Hoke Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed. Staff may still be reached by email.
- Hyde Co. Cooperative Extension Center office is closed until further notice. Staff is still available via phone or email.
- Iredell Co. Cooperative Extension Center cancelled all the programming with limited public access. Call 704-873-0507 to speak to staff or email agents directly.
- Johnston Co. Cooperative Extension Center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. But many events have been postponed or changed. Please check the website or call for updates.
- Jones Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public until further notice. It still can be contacted via phone, texts, or emails.
- Lee Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed for walk-ins and operating with limited staff. Call or email for assistance.
- Lenoir Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public and open to appointment only. Call for an appointment.
- Madison Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public access Please call 828.649.2411 or obtain resources on the website.. Staff can be contacted by email.
- Martin Co. Cooperative Extension Center is available by email and phone. Please call for an appointment.
- Mecklenburg Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed. All in-person activities are now online, canceled, or postponed until May 11. Contact staff via email if possible.
- Mitchell Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed. Staff are available by phone and email. Appointments by phone only.
- Montgomery Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Staff are available by phone and email.
- Moore Co. Cooperative Extension Center staff will be accessible online, by phone or by appointment.
- Nash Co. Cooperative Extension Center asks people to communicate with the office through email or call for further assistance.
- New Hanover Co. Cooperative Extension Center office and the Arboretum are temporarily closed in accordance with NHC and NC Stay at Home Executive Order.
- Northampton Co. Cooperative Extension Center encourages citizens to conduct business via phone or email until further notice.
- Onslow Co. Cooperative Extension has reduced face-to-face interactions. Appointment only. Contact center by email or phone.
- Orange Co. Cooperative Extension Center office remains closed until further notice. Please contact agents for additional assistance..
- Pamlico Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public. All business will be conducted via phone or email.
- Pasquotank Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the public. For questions or to speak with anyone in the Pasquotank Office please call 252-338-3954.
- Person Co. Cooperative Extension Center is no longer open to the public. Staff are available to assist by phone, please call for assistance.
- Pitt Co. Cooperative Extension Center is open by appointment only. Please call or email for assistance.
- Polk Co. Cooperative Extension Center is currently closed to visitors. Use “Meet Our Staff” tab to find the appropriate email contact.
- Randolph Co. Cooperative Extension Center has postponed or canceled all classes, workshops, and events until further notice.
- Rockingham Co. Cooperative Extension Center canceled/postponed all scheduled in-person events, meetings, and programs until further notice.
- Rowan Co. Cooperative Extension Center has locked office doors for COVID-19 precautions. Staff are available by email and phone.
- Rutherford Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to visitors. Feel free to call or email staff. Call 287-6060 regarding plant sale.
- Sampson Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed to the general public for COVID-19 precautions. Please call for assistance.
- Scotland Co. Cooperative Extension Center has closed the office and accepts clients only by appointment.
- Stanly Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Staff are available by phone and email.
- Stokes Co. Cooperative Extension Center has canceled/postponed all scheduled in-person events, meetings, and programs until further notice.
- Surry Co. Cooperative Extension Center has cancelled all events, meetings, workshops related to extension until further notice.
- Swain Co. Cooperative Extension Center closed the office. Contact Rob Hawk at 828-736-6919 for more information.
- Transylvania Co. Cooperative Extension Center is open. But all programming has been postponed or moved to online due to COVID-19 recommendations.
- Tyrrell Co. Cooperative Extension Center closed the office until further notice. The staff is still available via phone or email.
- Union Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed. Agents are available by email and phone. Please see “Meet Our Staff” tab for contact info.
- Vance Co. Cooperative Extension Center currently closed the office to the public. Agents are still working and available. Please call 438-8188 for assistance.
- Wake Co. Cooperative Extension Center is closed due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Please reach out to us at 919-250-1101 or by email to connect with our staff.
- Warren Co. Cooperative Extension Center has cancelled or postponed workshops, classes, and events until further notice. Please call or email if you need assistance.
- Washington Co. Cooperative Extension Center currently closed to the public until further notice. Staff are still available via phone and email.
- Watauga Co. Cooperative Extension Center has postponed all scheduled events, meetings and programs. Stay tuned for updates and online options.
- Wayne Co. Cooperative Extension Center cancelled or postponed all in-person events. Contact the office with any questions you may have!
- Wilkes Co. Cooperative Extension Center asks to call please ahead before visiting the office or call/email staff members.
- Wilson Co. Cooperative Extension Center postponed events until further notice.
- Yadkin Co. Cooperative Extension Center canceled all extension related events until at least mid-April. Please limit contact with staff to phone or email as much as possible.
- Yancey Co. Cooperative Extension Center is no longer open to the public. The center is still available to assist by phone. Call for assistance.
11) Agri-tourism and Viticulture Resources
After correspondence with the Virginia Tech Viticulture Program, we recommend that all vineyard, winery and agri-tourism managers and owners keep records of issues that arise due to the pandemic. In order to claim possible assistance later on, it is important to have a proven record of issues now!
- Executive Order No. 118 – Section 1.(a)(vi) reads: “…restaurants are restricted to carry-out, drive-through, delivery, and onsite consumption in outdoor seating area, subject to mass gathering restrictions… Bars are directed to close…”
- Executive Order No. 118 – Section 1.(b) reads: “…restaurants are defined as permitted food establishments, under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-248…”
- Executive Order No. 118 – Section 1.(c) reads: “…bars are defined as establishments that are not restaurants and that have a permit to sell alcoholic beverages for onsite consumption…”
- Per ABC guidance, “All on-premise sales and consumption must stop. This includes patios and outdoor picnic tables.” ABC Permit renewals extended to June 30, 2020
Cares Act for the Wine and Agri-tourism Industry:
Benefits of the CARES Act explained by Wine America. The bill authorizes $367 billion in Small Business Administrations Loans (max. of $10 Million per business), from Feb 15 2020 to Dec 31 2020. The bill also provides a refundable payroll tax credit for 50 percent of wages paid by employers to employees during the COVID-19 crisis.
TBB and Handsanitizer Production:
Please see this page of the American Craft Spirits Assoc. for all resources and forms needed to produce Hand Sanitizer
- TTB: Tips for Timely Processing of TTB Approvals and Requests During COVID-19 Emergency
- TTB: Updated Hand Sanitizer Guidance to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic
- TTB: Returns of Products Purchased for Events Cancelled Due to COVID-19
- TTB: TTB Informal Advice on Brewers Producing Hand Sanitizer
- To avoid delays or disruption to your operations during this period, we strongly encourage you to use our online filing options for all necessary TTB approvals. More Information: Wine America Post here
- How to file for a permission to produce ethanol based handsanitizers (for distilled spirits producers)
- Note from Wine America on possible returns of alcoholic beverages after cancellation of events
- Wine Institute: Reinforcement of prohibition of on-site consumption
Department of Labor:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 Overview
- Questions about Family Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act
- EPA-approved list of Coronavirus antimicrobial products
- National Restaurant Association: Coronavirus – Tips for Restaurants
- U.S. Small Business Association (SBA): Disaster Assistance Loans & COVID-19
- National Restaurant Association: COVID-19 Business Continuation Planning Basics
- COVID-19 Page of NC Hospitality Industry
- The Brewers Assoc. has put together an impressive homepage of resources, covering policy, production and sales! Check it out.
- Please look at the COVID-19 resource page of the Lodi Wine Growers Assoc.
- The American Craft Spirits Association has a resource and webinar page with a large amount of legal and practical information.
- Wine Direct Updates
- California Association of Winegrape Growers COVID-19 Homepage
- NY Wine Grape Growers Association COVID-19 Resource Page with daily updates
- Virginia Vineyard Association: Exchange and Resource
U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Staying Connected with Customers Through the Coronavirus Outbreak
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce: 5 Resources to Help Your Business Survive the Corona Virus
- U.S. Department of the Treasury: Treasury and IRS Issue Guidance on Deferring Tax Payments Due to COVID-19 Outbreak
12) How to cope with Stress
Farming is one of the most stressful occupations, even in the best of times. Budget is tight, crop fails, equipment breaks, weather is unpredictable, as is the crop market price and labor is short. Those are the things every farmer has to deal with on a daily basis every day. Farming is hard and often under-appreciated! However, the changes COVID-19 brings can seem more than overwhelming. And if you are facing an existential crisis, that very well can cause excessive stress and anxiety, leading to a lot of negative thoughts and even acts of self-harm, in the light of losing everything. Those feelings can cause a whole cascade of problems, and not too rarely folks try to harm themselves out of shame, or hopelessness.
The good news is that there are many warning signs you can catch early, before you or someone you love gets to this point. Often stress levels rise, and can reach toxic levels. While everyone copes with stress differently, there are some tell-tell signs of toxic stress:
- Changes in physical health: trouble sleeping; no appetite; headaches; stomach distress; excessive fatigue; muscle cramps and aches
- Changes in behavior: not doing usual activities (ex. church), not taking good care of farm or home; missing important meetings; increased substance use (including excess drinking)
- Changes in thinking: trouble concentrating or making decisions, being more frequently critical over small things; negative thoughts about self that won’t go away
- Changes in emotions: loss of enthusiasm, anxiety, depression, sense of hopelessness, not able to feel close to loved ones
If you or someone you love checks several of the above mentioned boxes, it is important to act now and find ways to cope before things could get worse. Some simple daily life measure might actually help:
- Physically: Eat three good meals a day. Make sure you got the nutrition you need. Limit your caffeine intake and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Stay physically active!
- Mentally: try to plan ahead, and accept that there is a pandemic. Set priorities, and don’t be afraid to say “no” to non-priority activities. Set realistic daily goals. Catch yourself if you fall into negative thoughts (“I always mess up”) and replace those thoughts by remembering times you have solved complex problems and been successful.
- Emotionally: This is important: If you do not feel well, reach out to those people you trust! Talking to your family, doctor or faith leader can be extremely helpful.
However, with COVID 19, external factors can just pile up and cause more and more stress, even if you do all the above mentioned things. If stress is preventing you or a loved one from performing daily tasks, a counselor or therapist often is the best solution. We have listed some resources below.
If you don’t know how to find one, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) (you don’t have to be suicidal or harm yourself to call), or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat.
Therapists and Lifeline are always confidential, and can be great help and can save a life. You do not have to be in crisis to be connected to a trained counselor in your area and can talk with them to find services.
Those information were provided by Anna Scheyett, PhD, MSW, firstname.lastname@example.org
- University of Maryland Extension: Managing farm stress
- American Farm Bureau Federation Rural Resilience initiative
- Iowa State University Farm Stress Management resources
- Michigan State University Extension Managing Stress on the Farm
- North Dakota State University Extension Farm and Ranch Stress initiative
- University of Georgia Rural Georgia Growing Stronger initiative
We will keep this document updated over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mark Hoffmann (Small Fruits Extension Specialist; email@example.com)
Emma Volk (Research Technician, Small Fruits Research Group; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Xiaonan Shi (MS Student, Small Fruits Research Group; email@example.com)
Rania Hassan (Horticulture Program Fruit Extension Group; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Amanda Lay (MS Student, Small Fruits Research Group; email@example.com)