Crisis Management and Best Practices for COVID-19

COVID-19, or 2019 Corona virus, is classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). This deadly illness effects the lower respiratory system and often leads to pneumonia for elderly and those with preexisting chronic illness. Restaurants, school systems and other typical venues for fresh local produce have been closed or have modified their business model due to government restrictions. Other non-essential businesses are now closed. Farmers markets and other agriculture businesses are considered essential at this time but will need to develop contingency plans now as a precaution to slow the advancement of the illness. With West Virginia’s population above average in at risk individuals, there is a growing concern for the safety of citizens attending the farmers market.

For the latest updates on the outbreak: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
For West Virginia specific updates: WV Department of Health and Human Resources

The following information is a collection of materials compiled based on recommendations from partners within the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, WVU Extension Services, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WV Department of Health and Human Resources, National Farmers Market Coalition, as well as several others. Below are some precautionary measures to implement right now, while we seek additional guidance for agriculture businesses.

  • Stop ALL sampling and on-site food consumption
  • Increase sanitation practices: use the 2020 Vendors Guide to set up a hand washing station or purchase hand sanitizer, encourage vendors to use personal protective equipment like gloves and masks when working with customers, increase the frequency of equipment and surface cleaning, do not use table cloths that cannot be immediately sanitized with cleansers
  • Mark areas around the market and use signage to help guide visitors and encourage them to keep a safe distance from one another
  • Limit the number of customers inside indoor markets
  • Encourage volunteers and staff to stay home if they show signs of illness or if they are considered at risk of becoming hospitalized due to exposure
  • Reschedule or cancel all in-person meetings or events for the next 8 weeks beginning March 19, 2020
  • Practice social distancing and implement plans that decrease direct person to person contact

The WVFMA will continue to operate as normal during this crisis to assist any farmers market or agriculture business continuing to serve their community. Our organization is devoted to the continued support of West Virginia communities and understand that now, more than ever, our communities need our farmers. However, our office in Charleston will be closed for in-person meetings until the threat has passed.

Resources currently available internally through the WVFMA:

  • Coordinated evening and weekend vendor conference meetings (Limit One per Member)
  • Assistance and one-on-one coaching to develop strategies for opening or continued operation
  • Partnership development between farmers and alternative markets encouraging aggregation and distribution through local supply chains
  • Additional support may be provided in the future, please check this page and our social media regularly

Additional resources: (links redirect to external websites)

Updates from the US Department of Agriculture: FAQs for COVID-19
USDA Food Defense and Emergency Response: Click Here
US Department of Homeland Security: Sector Specific Plan for Food and Agriculture 2015
Updates from the Food and Drug Administration: Food Safety and COVID-19
WV Department of Agriculture Updated April 24, 2020: Farmers Market Guidance and Press Release
WV Department of Health and Human Resources: Emergency Rules
Maryland Farmers Market Association: COVID-19 Protocols
Resilience in Food Systems: Studies published by Journal of Agriculture Food Systems and Community Development
COVID-19 and local farms webinar from March 18, 2020: Click here
Setting up communication plans: Vegetable Growers News
Hand washing with the WV Mountaineer: WVU Extension
Hand washing station and instructions from University of Minnesota Extension: Video Guide and Downloadable Printout
University of Minnesota Extension: Planning for COVID-19
Purdue University: Vegetable Crops Hotline
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association: COVID-19 Resources
Alternative sales options and ideas: Sales Options for Direct to Market Farmers
Drive Thru Farmers Markets: OSU Recorded Webinar
Farmers Market Delivered: WhatsGood App or CRAVE Technical Assistance
Webinar for Online Sales Platforms: Farmers Markets Online
Traveling Recommendations: CDC Resource for US Travel
What to do if an employee or volunteer is positive for COVID-19
Community Farm Alliance: Best Practices
Join the WVFMA Facebook Group: Click here
The Ohio State University – Agriculture and Natural Resources: Webinar Screenings Daily
(note for OSU webinars: click “Enter the Arena” to begin the daily webinar)

If your business is severely impacted, consider an SBA Loan: Foley & Lardner Webinar from April 7

For more information or for one-on-one assistance working through and developing a plan that works best for your farm, please contact us Monday through Friday 8:30am to 5pm at 304-202-6618.