The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) has released guidance on Farmers Markets and Pick-Your-Own operations that must be followed until further notice. The Farmer’s Market guidance was posted earlier last month and is viewable on the VAAFM website: https://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/agriculture/files/Farmers%20Market%20Guidance%2005.05.20.pdf. All farms that operate their own farm stands should plan on following these guidelines.
Pick-your-own guidance was just released today. Those rules are in the attached document, and copied below. VAAFM COVID_19 information can be found at: https://agriculture.vermont.gov/covid-19-information
Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets Office of the Secretary
116 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620-2901
June 1, 2020
PICK-YOUR-OWN RESTART PLAN
Pick-your-own agricultural producers, including berry farms and orchards, shall adhere to the Agency of Commerce & Community Development’s Phased Restart Work Safe Guidance for retail operations and follow the best practices identified in this Pick-Your-Own Restart Plan.
MANDATORY HEALTH & SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL BUSINESS, NON-PROFIT & GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS: All businesses must follow Vermont Department of Health and CDC guidelines outlined in the Phased Restart Work Safe Guidance and all health and safety and training requirements enumerated in Addendum 12 to Executive Order 01-20.
BUSINESS CUSTOMER & GENERAL PUBLIC MASK USE: Customers, and the public in general, are encouraged to wear face coverings any time they are interacting with others from outside their household. Businesses may require customers to wear facial coverings over their nose and mouth.
RETAIL OPERATIONS GUIDANCE)
Non-essential retail operations are limited to 25% (twenty-five percent) of approved fire safety occupancy; or 1 customer per 200 square feet; or 10 total customers and staff combined, whichever is greater. Operators must POST their temporary occupancy limit, and which method was used to determine it, prominently on all entrances. Posting templates are available at accd.vermont.gov.
Cashless/touch-less transactions are strongly preferred.
Curbside pickup remains the preferred method of operation. When possible, retailers should take steps to schedule or stage customer visits, such as waiting in cars or outside, to ensure lower contact operations.
Organized outdoor markets, such as flea markets, shall adhere to the farmers market guidance issued by the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.
Pick-your-own agricultural producers, including berry farms and orchards, shall adhere to retail guidance, and follow the best practices identified in the Agency of Agriculture’s Pick-Your-Own Restart Plan.
1. REQUIRED PRACTICES FOR PICK-YOUR-OWN (PYO) OPERATIONS
- Customer Face Covering. In accordance with Executive Order guidance, customers are encouraged to and should wear face coverings over their nose and mouth any time they are interacting with others from outside their households. Individual farms may require their customers to wear face masks.
- Limited Outdoor In-Person Picking. PYO farms shall admit no more than one customer per 200 square feet of the crop space that is available for harvest/picking at the time of admission. All employees and customers in the harvest area must practice social distancing and follow all related safety requirements. If customer demand significantly exceeds available space, PYO farms should pre-schedule customer visits to limit the number of people on site.
- Social Distancing and Customer Flow. PYO farms must manage customer flow to ensure a distance of at least 6 feet between all employees and customers at all times, including ensuring that all customers either wait in their vehicles or remain at least 6 feet apart while awaiting entry to the harvest/picking area.
- Containers and Tools. Picking containers must either be clean containers provided by customers who maintain exclusive control over them, disposable containers provided by the PYO farms for customers to take home, or reusable containers that employees thoroughly clean and disinfect before each use. All tools or other devices that customers may share must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected by employees before each use.
- Retail Stations. All in-person sales should be conducted at an outdoor retail station whenever possible, and all retail stations must include a sneeze guard, be regularly cleaned and disinfected, and have a hand-washing station or hand-sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol on site. Transactions should be conducted in advance whenever possible, and in-person sales should be conducted by electronic transaction without utilizing cash.
- Additional Requirements. To limit in-person contact and the risk of contamination, the on-site consumption of food—including crops being picked—is not allowed. In addition, customers are not permitted to congregate on site before, during, or after picking. PYO customers are prohibited from areas of the farm not involved in the PYO farm operation.
- PHYSICAL DISTANCING PLAN
- All employees and customers will follow all safety practices and always maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between all employees and customers.
- Online or telephone orders and transactions are encouraged because they are accomplished without in-person contact with customers. All employees engaged in this work shall practice social distancing.
- Sales should be conducted outside whenever possible. Indoor retail operations are limited to 25% (twenty-five percent) of approved fire safety occupancy; or 1 customer per 200 square feet; or 10 total customers and staff combined, whichever is greater. Operators must POST their temporary occupancy limit, and which method was used to determine it, prominently on all entrances. Posting templates are available at accd.vermont.gov.
- All harvest areas are limited to a maximum of no more than one customer per 200 square feet of the crop space available for harvest at the time of picking. All employees and customers must practice social distancing and follow all related safety requirements. The designated health officer employee will ensure compliance. The customer waiting, harvest, and retail area shall also be marked for one-way access wherever two-way access would require employees or customers to be closer than 6 feet apart, and whenever a crop row provides less than 10 feet of open space for foot traffic.
- Outdoor space will be further monitored to ensure that all customers awaiting access to a harvest site remain in their vehicles or maintain sufficient separation while awaiting entry. The designated health officer employee will ensure safety compliance for traffic flow and customer spacing while awaiting access to a harvest site.
- Employees shall not have more than two persons in a vehicle and should have a single employee per vehicle whenever possible.
- POSTINGS AND NOTIFICATIONS
- Internal for Employees. All PYO farms shall distribute a concise internal document to all employees that explains all social distancing and related safety requirements.
- External for Customers/Visitors. All PYO farms shall employ a designated health officer employee to ensure ongoing and simultaneous compliance with all safety requirements in each sector (parking/waiting, harvesting, retail) of the PYO operation.
- Postings/Signs. PYO farms shall post visible signs that include the following information: a) pre-ordered sales transactions are prioritized and preferred; b) identifying the maximum number of customers permitted in indoor retail spaces and outdoor harvest sites; c) the protocol for maintaining separation while awaiting entry, d) that all customers should wear appropriate facial coverings, and e) customers with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms are not allowed on the premises. Instructions for minimizing contact shall also be posted adjacent to each retail station, which shall be conducted in an outside area whenever possible.
- All PYO farms shall adopt a written plan to ensure that all safety, health, and sanitation requirements are followed in each facet of their operations.
Anson Tebbetts Secretary
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets