By Linda Halley | These days, more often than not, phone calls start with, “How are you doing?” and it is not meant rhetorically. We actually share meaningful information about our lives in the COVID-19 era. While what is happening around the world seems completely unreal, socially distanced interactions with friends, family, neighbors, customers, and vendors feel more real than ever. We have come to realize how much we all depend on each other. When masks are impossible to buy, our neighbor stitches us some. When the farmers’ markets are suspended, customers place orders online for “barn-side” pickup. When the food pantry runs short of donations, Gwenyn Hill packs up eggs and boxes the last of the onions.
For the better part of a month we have been “essential” in a strange, new way. We are allowed to (expected to) do our work; prepping the soil, planting crops and tending the lambs and calves. To the casual observer it looks like business as usual, but it is not.
New customers have found us to be essential. Demand for our product is significantly up. Yes, people will drive out to the farm for fresh eggs and grass-fed meat. Yes, people will pre-pay for a summer’s worth of organic produce. We have always received appreciative comments but now, without even a glimpse of each other, packages are whisked off the table outside the barn door and regularly replaced with thankful notes.
And, behind the scenes, we show our appreciation through “keeping safe” protocol. We sanitize, we mask up, we practice social distancing and, just in general, stay home when we aren’t working. Providing clean, safe, delicious food and a healthy work environment for our staff is our way of practicing gratitude for our customers’ purchases.
We are also connected to our fellow farmers more than ever before. Spring is typically the time to say “so long” to our farming friends. We get so busy that we don’t expect to get together again until winter conference season rolls around. However, this April, through our video calls, we are finding sensible solutions to keep employees healthy and customers safe. The more we share the more informed we are and the wiser our decisions. We know that we are all in this together.
Gwenyn Hill will soon be making the transition to our Spring CSA. With “safer at home” orders being extended through May we will be pre-packing the share for barn-side pickup rather than allowing a market style distribution. The optimist in me says this is only for a while. The realist in me knows we will simply do what conditions dictate for as long as it takes to keep us all healthy.
This is what we currently do here at Gwenyn Hill to stay safe.
Keeping our people safe:
All employees are trained in CDC best practices for staying healthy, recognizing COVID-19 symptoms, safe use of single use gloves, and effective sanitizing procedures.
All employees will receive paid personal time off and sick leave, thereby easing their decision should they need to stay home.
All employees with symptoms, or who have contacted someone with symptoms, must stay home until cleared by the recommendation of a health professional or in compliance with CDC guidance.
A portable soap and water handwashing station is provided to our contractors at the construction site.
Keeping our facility safe:
All buildings are closed to visitors.
All workstations and high touch surfaces are sanitized prior to the work day and again when the workstation is to be used.
Produce totes are sanitized prior to use with a strong, effective, organically approved sanitizer.
High touch surfaces in tractor cabs and vehicles are sanitized prior to use.
Keeping our customers safe:
All washed produce receives food-safe, organically approved sanitizing rinse.
Employees handle all produce wearing gloves and masks (when available).
At this time, all products are sold online only, at: https://gwenynhillpastures.grazecart.com/
Orders are pre-paid and individual pickup appointments are arranged so there is no direct contact with others.
Access to our building is limited so your pre-packed, labeled order is available outside the side door of the Williams Barn.
Phone numbers are posted if you need assistance.
Linda Halley is the General Manager of Gwenyn Hill. To Linda, born and raised on a farm, farming has always been essential.