COVID-19, Agriculture, and Us
At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us in rural Georgia, especially in the farming industry, didn't think or worry much about the news, but man did it escalate quickly! We are isolated out in the country and we can sustain on our own if a quarantine came to pass. And our kids being out of school just means they can get a head start on working on the farm! But this ever-changing time period has extended to even the most remote farms, with businesses seeking to protect their customers and employees and trying to decide what is an essential business and what is not and whether or not to stay open. Universally, groceries and medical emergencies are considered essential, but if the grocery stores are to stay stocked then farmers must keep running which means they need fuel, parts, fertilizer, animal feed, vet services, chemicals (yes even organic farmers need chemicals b/c most of them are spraying, they just use ones that have been approved to use and still be considered organic...organic does not EVER mean "not sprayed".) Luckily most of the businesses that are essential to farming are still operating in some capacity at the moment. So as hard as we tried to fight it, the pandemic has even affected us on the farm. For us in particular right now, we are trying to devise a plan to continue serving our community while also protecting it. Field trips and birthday parties have been cancelled and we even closed this weekend to the public to take the time to come up with a plan for something that we've never faced before. For years, we have had training, plans, policies, & SOP's in place for food safety, health, & hygiene, but with the unknowns surrounding COVID-19 we decided to take a few days to decide what we could do better and what needs adjusting or limiting to further protect the public. We can get a little crazy on the weekends with people coming from all over to pick fresh strawberries, enjoy homemade ice cream & slushies, or play on the playground so we felt like we need a plan in place before we can open on a weekend. And those plans may change, evolve, or adjust according to new guidelines set forth by the CDC and Department of Agriculture. Our playground will probably be closed for at least 2 weeks and possibly more. There is no way to 100% sanitize a playground. You would have to be responsible for keeping your child 6 feet away from another child and then Clorox wiping down every piece of equipment out there before your child takes a turn. Besides that being borderline ridiculous, we just don't want to leave that up to the individual to decide b/c we don't want to be a part of an outbreak in our community if everyone doesn't have the same level of concern that we have so the easiest thing to do is close the playground for awhile. We will be limiting the store capacity to 10 customers at a time and ask that people who aren't shopping remain outside practicing social distancing. We are going to move all of our picnic tables around to space them out where you could bring a lunch or enjoy an ice cream outdoors, without being too close to other people. If this doesn't work or is deemed inefficient then we may have to close the porch and picnic area as well. We are constantly sanitizing and cleaning and all heavily touched surfaces are being routinely sanitized but we have also added additional signs about hand washing. You should be washing your hands every time you touch something in public and you should always wash you fruit (or veggies) before eating. If you buy from us or pick it your self or buy from the grocery store, ALWAYS wash before you eat. Unless an item is clearly marked that it's pre-washed, then it's not washed. Many or most produce can't be washed b/c makes it spoil faster on the shelf. And once you put it in your fridge, it can grow bacteria so you should wait until your'e ready to eat and then wash before you eat. Our U-Pick field will be reopened next week, and we don't re-use buckets so you will always be handed a clean bucket when you arrive. If you need something from the store but have concerns about entering, you can pull up in the driveway and call us and we can bring your strawberries or ice cream out to you (229)533-4314. Since we may not be able to offer the kids something fun to do for a while, keep an eye on our blog as we are going to post some fun things to do with your kids to keep them entertained! Stay tuned to our facebook page for the most up to date information as we navigate through this unknown territory!