Everyone needs to eat, and no more so when we’re all staying at home. Know that local farmers are continuing to produce fresh fruits, vegetables and other crops critical to a healthy diet during this time of public emergency.
Farming is considered as part of the "essential" economy by the local, state, and federal shelter-in-place orders, and farmworkers are continuing to report to their jobs, growing and harvesting, processing and shipping these critical crops. Monterey County’s farm economy is valued at $4.2 billion and provides substantial portions of our nation’s fresh berries, vegetables and leafy greens each week.
To ensure the continued health of our farmworkers, Monterey County agricultural associations came together with the county Agricultural Commissioner and county supervisors Luis Alejo and Chris Lopez to craft an advisory for agricultural protection during the Covid-19 pandemic. This comprehensive list of safety and sanitation measures incorporates existing, already stringent practices for food and worker safety, but also enhances and aligns with the recommendations made by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and public health agencies.
Everyone needs to realize the critical need for farmworkers in the equation that is our food supply. Without these farmworkers there would be little or no harvesting of our crops because there are no existing mechanical methods to harvest strawberries, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower or most of the other crops produced in the Salinas Valley.
Yet our agricultural employers need to maintain a safe environment for these farmworkers, which includes the recommended social distancing of at least 6 feet when possible, sanitation of workspaces and tools utilized, and adequate supplies of gloves, masks and other required gear to ensure worker safety.
Much of what is recommended in this advisory is already in place due to food safety and worker sanitation measures undertaken in the past decade. The critical element to remember is that Covid-19 transmission is not connected to any food item; our food supply is the safest and most monitored in the world when it comes to managing food-borne illnesses.
The advisory includes some common sense practices that all members of the public should also be observing. Don’t come to work if you feel ill or have someone in your immediate household who is ill; isolation of ill individuals is critical in controlling the spread of Covid-19 in our community, and in our agricultural workforce. Be aware of your surroundings when venturing out for critical errands such as food shopping, mail collection and prescription fulfillment. Sneeze into your sleeve and maintain that all-important social distancing.
Monterey County farmers are committed to providing a steady supply of health dietary choices when shopping for food during the shelter-in-place Order. We aim to keep our workforce healthy and protected so they can continue to provide that supply to your local supermarkets.
We need our farmworkers now more than ever.