According to a recent survey of farmers, 70 percent have no formal back-up plan should a key member of the family farming operation become ill with COVID-19. This doesn’t mean farmers aren’t thinking about the issue, but in most cases, it has not resulted in a plan of action.
Granted, most corn farms continue to be family-run operations with minimal employees and or seasonal help, so much of the advice currently being shared with businesses may not apply. However, there are some basic things you can do and should consider.
- Schedule a brainstorming meeting with all family and employees involved in the operation to discuss possible scenarios, solutions to potential disruptions during planting and subsequent fieldwork. Make a list of immediate changes that can lower risk.
- Minimize the exposure of outsiders. Use telephone, emails or texts for communications with employees or contractors who do not reside on the farm. Observe appropriate social distancing if someone needs to visit the farm or work on site.
- Consider cross-training of family members and employees regarding key functions and appropriate safe operation of equipment.
- Increase sanitation of workspaces and make it part of your daily/weekly routine. Simple things like disinfecting work surfaces, countertops, computer keyboards, doorknobs, hand railings, tractor controls, and monitors can make a difference.
- Make cleaning supplies readily available, including cleaning solutions, buckets, mops, brushes, etc. for cleaning break areas and the shop readily available. Place disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer on equipment and in truck cabs and in high traffic areas.
- Stay in the house if you’re sick. Farmers and their employees regularly work while sick. This is a time to break that tradition. If employees are sick, tell them to stay home, and if the family is sick, they should isolate themselves as much as possible and not visit work areas.
- Develop a written contingency plan and make sure everyone has a copy. Are there neighboring farmers who might be able to share resources and or labor in an emergency? Who will manage for a few weeks if you or another key person is unable to leave your house or are hospitalized?
NCGA is committed to keeping you informed and passing along best practices as we move through the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. You will find some previous tips on handling deliveries on the farm here.