COVID-19 PROTOCOLS ON THE FARM
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, we want to assure our customers that we take Food Safety very seriously in all aspects of farm production. Small farms are operated by few people with very few inputs; in our case, your vegetables will only be handled by one or two people tops, harvested and washed only a day or two before we place it on our Farm Store shelves. You can come see exactly where it is grown and talk face-to-face with the few people who handle it.
We are committed to providing our customers with produce that is healthy and safe to eat. Both Leah and Orlando have a Certificate of Training from the Produce Safety Alliance; we are completely up-to-date on the safety standards and protocols laid out in the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act that was signed into law in 2011. We strive to incorporate these standards into each aspect of our operation: from the moment a plant sprouts in our greenhouse or field, to the time that plant is harvested, and all the way until it lands in your shopping bag, we take particular care in eradicating all risk of the development of foodborne illnesses in our product.
While there is no documented risk that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted via food/produce, there are still many measures that can be taken on a small farm like ours in order to prevent transmission of the virus. Here are some of the Food Safety procedures that we will emphasize with particular focus on eliminating COVID-19 exposure:
Increased accessibility to hand washing and sanitizing for our employees. This means having hand washing sinks available and encouraging our staff to use them very frequently; it also means that we will include proper hand washing techniques in our Food Safety training for our staff. We'll also have cleaners available for employee phones and make phone sanitization mandatory.
Mandatory use of latex or nitrile gloves when handling harvested produce for as long as we are able to buy gloves. This is is standard protocol for us regardless of the current pandemic; however, in light of the current shortage of medical supplies, we can't promise that we will have consistent access to gloves. In that case, we will increase hand washing as much as possible.
Frequent and consistent sanitization of any surfaces that come into contact with produce during harvest and post-harvest processing. This includes harvest and storage bins, sinks, sorting tables, scales, etc. Food grade sanitizers will be used for these surfaces. Single-use barriers will be used for any surfaces that cannot easily be sanitized (for example, wax paper inside of our Farm Store display baskets).
Daily check-ins regarding employee health. We will strongly encourage our employees to be open with us about how they are feeling each day; the slightest hint of an illness will result in the employee being sent home to rest. Ideally we would offer paid sick days to encourage this honest dialogue, and we are reviewing our budget to see if this will be possible.
Establishment of safe Farm Store shopping protocol for our customers. We will limit the number of folks who can enter the Farm Store at one time in order to safely maintain social distances. (If a customer has to wait, luckily we have a picnic table, beautiful farm views and plenty of fresh air to enjoy in the meantime! And Farm Store members can enjoy free U-pick flowers and herbs.) We'll have hand sanitizer available to our customers before and after they shop, and when possible we will offer sanitizable utensils (such as tongs) to choose produce.
Offering an online pre-order system for our customers. For anyone who wants to limit potential exposure as much as possible, we will offer folks a way to pre-order their produce. We'll pack it and have it available for pick-up outside of the Farm Store. More details to come on exactly how this system will work – be sure to subscribe to our newsletter (at the bottom of this page) to get the latest news about this new pre-order system.
We will certainly be implementing many other safety protocols in light of this pandemic. In an effort to be as transparent as possible, we will keep our customers updated on these implementations as we follow CDC, WHO and FSMA guidelines to establish our post-harvest handling systems on the farm. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns: email , or call Leah at 501-231-2460.