March 16, 2020
If Community Supported Agriculture means anything to us, it means coming together to support one other in difficult times as well as good times. It means that Jan and I will take every precaution to ensure that our workers stay safe and healthy and that the food we grow and sell remains free of contamination of any kind and is safe for our CSA shareholders and their families.
In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have revised some key staff policies to be fully in accord with new CDC guidelines. The staff knows to stay away from the farm at the first sign that they might have the disease or have been exposed to it. They know when and where to seek medical attention. And they know that we have extended our paid sick leave policy by an additional 14 days to eliminate the temptation to come to work when sick for financial reasons.
Everyone at the farm is healthy at present and, of course, fully aware of the pandemic. Currently, there are several cases in Saratoga Springs, but none in nearby towns. We all expect this to change, and we know to avoid exposure to risk by staying away from groups, maintaining safe minimum distances from others, washing well and frequently, and avoiding touching our faces. Staff policies not only describe personal hygiene, but also outline a range of workplace cleaning protocols.
We will be developing new safe food handling policies well in advance of our first harvest. Our current food handling system is being reviewed in light of what the scientific community and health experts are telling us about this disease. New information is coming in daily about how long the virus survives on surfaces and how best to clean processing equipment. University Extension educators are helping us with this effort. Two years ago, we underwent a comprehensive packing shed renovation with new federal food safety rules in mind. Our next steps will build on what we already do well.
The reuse of packaging is something that concerns us. One of the safeguards we will implement is the pre-packaging of shares, just as we do in winter, and we will do this for as long as necessary. The rationale is that the shortest food handling chain is the safest. We, as a small and careful group, can do all the harvesting and boxing in a clean, safe space using best management practices, so that the next people to touch those boxes are the very users of that food, our shareholders.
These early days are stressful for all of us. There is a lot of information to process. But I feel confident that we can develop an effective food safety plan that includes staff awareness, safe harvesting, and sanitary packaging and distribution. We will proceed with an abundance of caution. The safety of your food is our first priority.
I know that there is a great deal of uncertainty around employment. Keep in mind that all of our CSA sites offer payment plans and most offer sliding scale pricing in an effort to help make our food affordable to you. If you have questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can imagine important roles in the city: offloading CSA packages wearing gloves and other appropriate PPE, and figuring out how to distribute them while maintaining safe distances. Let’s keep an open dialogue about these and other related issues. Please share your thoughts. We will continue to share what we learn and how we plan to respond throughout the season.
Our best wishes for your good health,Ted and Jan