By now it’s likely that everyone in the Vermont orchard community has heard news of a COVID outbreak among the harvest crew at Champlain Orchards in Shoreham. I write this with respect for the Champlain Orchard community, and humility regarding the potential for an outbreak when we are doing the best we can. A farm isn’t that different than a college campus, and this only highlights how easily any of us can wind up in a tough situation.
The Vermont Agricultural and Public Health communities are providing support to Champlain and to other growers. Addison District State Senator Ruth Hardy has issued a communication to constituents outlining the services being provided. For many of our smaller pick-your-own orchards, the low crop and high demand have led to a shortened season, and many shops have already closed up for the season. But for those who are still harvesting, and especially who still have crews in bunkhouses, it’s critically important to follow CDC guidance as I outlined in a previous post.
Finally, on a good note, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets has announced an extension to November 15 of the Vermont Covid-19 Agricultural Assistance Program. VAAFM personnel had contacted me earlier in the season because few growers had signed onto the program, which wasn’t too surprising given the timing during harvest. The purpose of VCAAP grants is to stabilize agricultural businesses and organizations based on their lost revenues and expenses related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Please consider applying for this program, more information is available at: https://agriculture.vermont.gov/covid-19-information/vermont-covid-19-agriculture-assistance-program
Take care out there,