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Local farms consider safety as COVID-19 clusters pop up in NYS

Patrick Moussignac
Updated: June 29, 2020 05:48 PM
Created: June 29, 2020 05:39 PM

BROCKPORT, N.Y. (WHEC) — After COVID-19 clusters in growing operations elsewhere in the state, local farms are working hard to make sure they're operating safely. News10NBC visited a Brockport produce farm as the harvest season gets underway. 

It's picking season at most fruit and vegetable farms in the Finger Lakes region. Since March, farmers had to deal with the rapid spread of COVID-19 while running their business. 

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Kirby Farm Market Owner Chad Kirby says social distancing has changed the way field workers now harvest their hand-picked crops.

"You know the rows are about 12 feet apart so they can easily, each person gets one row, and they easily stay spaced apart, but sometimes it's just a few as one or two people," Kirby said.

Kirby says the pandemic has caused his operating costs to increase tremendously. Hand sanitizers out now in the field, and new rules when handling just-picked produce.

"We're sanitizing all containers that the food is going into," Kirby said.

When it comes to guest workers Kirby is lucky. On his farm are eight guest workers who all live in Jamaica. They had minor problems returning to work in the United States.

"They come in early May so a lot of the borders had reopened at that point, and the airplane flights were a little complicated. They were two weeks delayed because of that. So our planting was slightly delayed," Kirby said.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County has been working with local farmers when it comes to all the new state guidelines. One major priority is to prevent what happened with dairy farmers who were forced to dump their milk.

"We're trying to constantly connect the local food sources with the local community," Jarmila Haseler, Agricultural Educator of the CCEMC said.

An effort to help everyone save at the market.

"If the food can't get to the selling points like the grocery stores, packing houses on time that will definitely affect the price, and also the quality of the produce," Haseler said.

As new guidelines are released Kirby says he will do all that he can to work within all the new changes.


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