Small Farms, Local Food, and COVID-19

What do you need to know?

  • Where can I go for vaccine information?
  • How is COVID-19 spread?
  • What hygiene and food safety practices will help me prevent COVID-19 infection?
  • What should I be communicating to employees?
  • What online sales systems work for farms?
  • Where can I go for financial assistance due to COVID-19 business hardship?
  • Where can I find reliable information about the spread of COVID-19?

Access to credible information is important during any public health crisis. Faculty in the OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food systems are working with community partners to provide current information that is relevant for small farms and local food systems. As the pandemic progresses, we may update or add to these Frequently Asked Questions.

Where can I find reliable information about the spread of COVID-19?

The State of Oregon, Oregon Health Authority and national Center for Disease Control are all providing information and policies to help manage the pandemic. Restrictions to reduce the spread of the virus can come from Federal, State and local government, so stay up to date on policies in your area.

OSU Extension is following the public health guidance of our local county health departments, the Oregon Health Authority, and the national Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Where can I go for vaccine information?

Oregonians 5 and older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Visit the Oregon Health COVID-19 vaccines are free and available throughout Oregon’s communities.

How is COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 is spread mainly through person-to-person contact. The virus spreads in droplets or aerosols (fine spray) and can infect a new person through the eyes, nose and mouth.

What masking, hygiene, and food safety practices will help me prevent COVID-19 infection? 

Vaccinations, masking and social distancing are important practices we can implement to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Follow state and county rules for updates on current mask guidance. The virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. Wearing masks and respirators can protect you and others from getting and spreading COVID-19. Surgical masks, KN95 respirators, and cloth masks made of multiple layers of a tightly woven breathable fabric, that blocks light, and fit tightly over your nose and mouth are described by the CDC as options. CDC recommends that specially labeled “surgical” N95 respirators should be prioritized for healthcare personnel.

Sanitizers don’t work on dirty hands or food contact surfaces: clean, rinse and then sanitize.

Farms should make hand washing stations and/or hand sanitizer available to all employees and customers. Employees should wash their hands especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.

Disposable gloves may be helpful in some circumstances, but only if they are used correctly.

Wash hands before and after putting on gloves, and change them if you touch a potentially contaminated surface. Detailed instructions for using gloves are provided in the link below.

Focus on masking and social distancing for minimizing exposure to COVID-19 and hand-washing and surface sanitization for general workplace hygiene.

For Organic farmers:

What should I be communicating to employees?

Talk with your employees about Coronavirus, how it spreads, and how to prevent getting infected. You should review your sick leave policy with all employees. The first advice for people who are sick is to stay home. Anyone that has a fever, cough, and shortness of breath should call a medical provider before visiting a care facility.

Do you provide paid sick leave for your employees? If you do not, will employees feel financially obligated to come to work even if they are sick? Employees sometimes come to work believing they will face punishment or firing if they miss work. Be sure your employees understand that their health and that of their co-workers comes first. Communicate and make a plan to cover for sick employees. See Fact Sheets in link below, provided in both English and Spanish.

Provide guidance to help employees clean and disinfect employer-provided housing. Follow up with employees and manage the process to be sure that this happens. Set up a regular weekly and daily schedule for cleaning.

What online sales systems work for farms?

Oregon Tilth webinar provides an overview of options and key questions for farmers to consider when looking at direct-to-consumer online sales.

The National Young Farmers Coalition has put together a guide for farmers with information on direct sales software platforms, direct sales models, and software platform details. 

Here are a few online sales platforms to check out, this is not a comprehensive list, nor are we endorsing any of these. We recommend reaching out to your farmer networks to get recommendations on platforms currently used:

Here are some questions to ask when you’re choosing which service to work with:
  • How long has your online sales platform been in use?
  • How many farmers are you currently working with?
  • What will it cost my farm to use your platform? What is your fee structure?
  • I’m ready to start selling products right now. What does it take to get started? Is there a wait because of the current increase in demand for online sales platform services?
  • How will your online sales platform integrate with my current website?
  • What is the process for entering the products that I have to sell?
  • How do I update my product list and pricing?
  • Will I be able to set inventory limits so that I don’t oversell products?
  • How does the customer interface work? Is your platform easy to use on a Smartphone?
  • How do customers pay for products?
    • Are credit and debit card fees charged to customers?
    • Can customers pay by check or cash on delivery?
    • Can customers pay with EBT?
    • Is there a way for me offer customers discounts, coupons, and promotions?
  • How long does it take for customer payments to deposit into my farm’s bank account?
  • How is sales tax handled on your platform?
  • Is it possible to integrate your platform with my accounting software?
  • Is it possible to create pack lists directly from your sales platform? How about labels?
  • Does your platform offer any suggestions for delivery routes based on orders?
  • What kind of IT support does your company provide?
  • How is my farm’s sales data used and/or shared?
  • What happens to my farm’s sales data if I stop using your platform?
  • What other features does your platform offer that I should know about?
Where can I go for financial assistance due to COVID-19 business hardship?