Key points and resources to keep vegetable farms running during novel coronavirus
In this constantly changing environment, here are some resources to help produce farms run while keeping personnel and plants healthy.
This information is current as of May 19, 2020.
The current environment is ever-changing, as each state takes different routes in response to the novel coronavirus, the virus that causes the infectious disease COVID-19. Michigan State University Extension’s vegetable team has compiled useful resources for Michigan vegetable growers.
Working with your local MSU Extension educator
Due to current travel restrictions and safety guidelines, MSU Extension has modified how we work with our clientele. We are still here to provide the information and resources you need, just in different ways than we have in the past. Per the governor’s “Safer at Home” executive order and MSU guidelines, MSU Extension is only allowing essential travel, which is being granted on a limited basis to scout for pests and deal with time-sensitive issues. Reach out to your local MSU Extension educator if you have questions and they will work with you to address your questions
- Ben Phillips – Bay and Thumb regions of Michigan
- Ben Werling – West central Michigan
- Marissa Schuh – Southeast Michigan
- Ron Goldy – Southwest Michigan
MSU Plant & Pest Diagnostics Lab
Effective March 25, 2020, MSU’s Plant & Pest Diagnostics will no longer be accepting drop-off samples or walk-in consultations. We are still processing mail-in samples and can be reached via email at email@example.com.
For plant health assessment samples and insect and plant identification, please send a preliminary email to firstname.lastname@example.org with digital images to see if a diagnosis/identification can be made without a physical sample. Please remember to photograph the injury symptoms both up close and at a distance, as well as include details on any patterns, timing, chemical applications, etc. This is the same information typically requested on the submittal form.
If you plan to submit a nematode soil sample, physical plant health sample or we request a physical sample by U.S. mail, please email us so we are aware your package is coming. Please do not ship samples on Fridays, and whenever possible use the U.S. Postal Service. Also, please include the submittal form in your package.
Due to the current circumstances, please allow additional processing time. Thank you for your understanding.
MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab
The Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab continues to operate during this time and results are going out within 10 days of receipt. Customers will be unable to secure soil test boxes from their county Extension offices due to closures related to novel coronavirus; instead they can mail their samples in Ziploc bags directly to the lab. Print off the information sheet from the website to accompany the samples along with a check made out to MSU for the correct amount from the fee schedule.
In situations critical to essential services, where farmers cannot wait for the additional processing time by mail, Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab samples can be dropped off at the loading dock on the south side of the Plant and Soil Sciences Building, 1066 Bogue St. East Lansing, MI 48834. Samples must be left on the designated cart on the loading dock. Submission forms can be found on the cart and samples that are not in pre-paid Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory soil boxes will be billed after sample completion.
Agriculture and Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order
Farmworkers are essential employees and allowed to continue work under the state of Michigan’s executive order dated March 19, 2020. Employers can provide employees with “in-transit” letters plus a copy of Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MDARD) executive order identifying them as being engaged in essential work, providing the farm’s contact information and including MDARD’s clarification on the executive order. Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) has detailed what to include in letters and provided templates.
For Spanish language version of these letters, the MFB Farm Employee Communication Template and the Michigan Agri-Business Association Farm Employee In-Transit have been translated by Michigan Food and Farming Systems.
MDARD has also arranged for Restricted Use Pesticide alternative test-taking for private applicators.
MSU Extension has recorded reviews of the core manual to help test-takers prepare.
Pesticide applicator’s with RUP licenses that expired on Dec. 31, 2019 have had their licenses have been deemed unexpired until “60 days after the end of the declared states of emergency and disaster.” For full details and an explainer, see Michigan pesticide applicators receive temporary emergency license extension.
Keeping farm personnel healthy
Resources for communicating with workers and tools to help them with the correct practices (as of April 2, 2020).
- Printable English and Spanish language resources describing coronavirus and explaining preventive measures are available from CDC.
- Printable English and Spanish Resources for Migrant Labor Housing From MDARD.
- Printable English and Spanish handwashing signs.
- A variety of English and Spanish signage on handwashing, preparing for an outbreak, what to do if you are sick, and more.
- Plans for making cheap, portable handwashing stations:
- Overview of on-farm sanitation practices.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) information
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated guidance to the industry
- In the event an employee tests positive for COVID-19, United Fresh has published guidelines growers may wish to follow.
- Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility: Everyday Steps, Steps When Someone is Sick, and Considerations for Employers from the CDC
- The FDA is updating a Q and A page for the food industry, which includes guidance on maintaining social distancing when employees typically work in close conditions and what to do if workers test positive.
- The FDA has also released an overview of respirators, facemasks, and cloth face coverings in the ag sector.
- If you are running into issues sourcing the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for pesticide application, the University of California has released tips for sourcing and substituting PPE.
A series of short, Spanish-language videos from North Carolina State Extension provide an overview of COVID-19 and preventative behavior.
- Contingency Planning Advice from Purdue University (April 2020)
- How to Communicate with Customers, Marketing Considerations, and Emergency Planning from University of Minnesota (April 2020)
- Information on Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) Enforcement
- OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
- Michigan Agritourism Guidance on Best Practices for Farm Markets & Agritourism Operations
- Part 1: Overcome Challenges with a Holistic Approach (April 9)
- For vegetable growers with retail greenhouses, this Garden Center Survival Strategy Series from MSU Extension contains useful information.
Industry groups and nonprofit groups providing resources
- Michigan Agri-Business Association
- Michigan Farm Bureau
- Michigan Food and Farming Systems
- United Fresh Produce Association
Modifying direct marketing practices
- Experiences and ideas from one Michigan farmer on modifying their CSA and farm market operations (also available as slides).
- Guide to Alternative Marketing Channels from Purdue University (March 24, 2020)
- Lake Pepin Local Food Group overview and experiences with online sales platforms (February 2018)
- Oregon Tilth Webinar on Online Sales Platforms for Farmers (March 23, 2020)
- The MSU Product Center’s Food and Farm Business Sales Channel Deep Dives webinar series is covering considerations of selling through different venues. So far, they have covered switching to a CSA model and modifying practices to sell at farmers markets.
- If you are preparing for U-pick season, you can request a copy of a recorded webinar on modifying U-pick practices in response to COVID-19.
Navigating COVID-19 related legislation and programs
- Farms should apply now for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans
- For more information on programs, visit MSU Extension's Agribusiness Resources for Novel Coronavirus. Note that the legislation is changing rapidly.
MSU Extension has translated some information webinars on some of the ag business related COVID-19 legislation into Spanish.