COVID-19 Prevention and Control on the Farm

Posted by:RADAAdmin in News

Jamaica is facing an outbreak of the novel corona virus – COVID19, which causes serious respiratory disease and may be deadly especially for the elderly and those with weakened immune systems due to underlying illnesses etc. The World Health Organization has declared the global outbreak a pandemic. As you would have heard the corona virus can be fought by taking several recommended steps to prevent transmission and spread of the disease. Widespread cancellation of events to create ‘social distancing’ to reduce the rate of spread is becoming more and more prolific.

Clear guidelines about COVID-19 prevention are provided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) (hotline, printable factsheets and posters). Download at:

Covid-19 Safety on the Farm

Your farm workforce is also susceptible to COVID 19, so please begin/intensify the following steps to protect yourself and your farm workers:

  • Talk with your workers about COVID 19, how it spreads and how to prevent getting infected.
  • Print the MOHW factsheets and posters, and post around the farm and work areas.
  • Intensify your assistance to your farm workers to clean and sanitize farm work areas. Follow up with farm workers and manage the process to ensure that this happens.
    1. Revise and conduct regular weekly and daily cleaning schedules.
  • Clean and sanitize your work areas/spaces. Workers rest/eating areas and bathrooms will be at greater risk for virus transmission. Clean and sanitize any area where workers congregate or regularly touch items e.g. door knobs, scales, tools and phones. Implement daily and weekly cleaning schedules.
  • Provide cleaning supplies e.g. cleaning solution (disinfectant, dilute bleach solution) buckets, mops, brushes etc. for cleaning and sanitizing on the farm (do not mix these solutions – read and follow the label).
  • Review your sick leave policy – sick workers should stay home (discuss this with your workers)
  • Communicate and make a plan to cover for sick employees.
  • Prepare your disaster contingency plan. What do you do if 50% of your workers become sick or unable to work? Are there neighbouring farms that might be able to share resources in an emergency? Who will be in charge if you or another key team member is unable to be on the farm at work?

What Should Farmers Do?

Source: The University of Vermont (March 13, 2020).


  1. Stay Away from Produce if Sick – If someone is sick, they should be nowhere near fruit and vegetables that others are going to eat. This is likely already part of your farm’s food safety plan and policies, but this is a good reminder to emphasize and enforce the policy. Consider posting signs asking customers not to shop at your farm stand if they have symptoms.
  2. Practice Social Distancing – By putting a bit more space between you and others you can reduce your chances of getting ill. This might mean limiting or prohibiting farm visitors or reducing the number of off-farm meetings you attend in person. Avoid shaking hands and other physical contact. This also reduces the risk of your produce coming into contact with someone who is ill before it heads to market.
  3. Wash Your Hands – Reinforce the importance of washing hands well when arriving at work, when changing tasks (e.g. moving from office work to wash/pack), before and after eating, after using the bathroom, before putting on gloves when working with produce, and after contact with animals. Soap + water + 20 seconds or more are needed to scrub all surfaces of your hands and fingers thoroughly. Then, dispose of paper towels in a covered, lined trash container. See MOHW hand-out on hand-washing.
  4. Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Drying – Viruses, in general can be relatively long-lasting in the environment, and have the potential to be transferred via food or food contact surfaces. In this early stage, there is no indication that this virus has spread via food of any type. However, there’s no better time than the present to review, improve, and reinforce your standard operating procedures for cleaning, sanitizing, and drying any food contact surfaces, food handling equipment, bins, and tools. Remember, cleaning means using soap and water, sanitizing is using a product labelled for sanitizing, and drying means allowing the surfaces to dry completely before use.
  5. Plan for ChangeMany produce farms are lean operations run by one or two managers and a minimal crew.  Do you have a plan for if you become severely ill? How do things change if half your workforce is out sick? 

What Should Markets and Farmers Markets Do?

Everything Above – Growers, retail food market owners, and farmers market managers should do all the things above. Does your market have a hand washing station?

Communicate with your Customers – Consider reaching out to your customers and recommend they stay home if they are ill. Have you informed your customers about any changes in your hours or policies?

Consider Alternative Delivery – Some markets are taking this opportunity to launch pre-ordering and electronic payment options to enable social distancing at market. Some markets are moving to a drive-through pickup option.

Reinforce the Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables –Be sure to promote the nutritional value of your products! But, keep in mind that promotion of your products should be within reason. Avoid making overly broad or unsupported health claims. Fresh produce contains many minerals and nutrients important for immune health which may reduce the severity and duration of an illness. Fun Fact: Pound for pound, that storage cabbage in your cooler has as nearly as much vitamin C as oranges. 



Source: The University of Vermont (March 13, 2020).