An Update from our Executive Director Regarding COVID-19: Part 1

Rarely have the simple words “we belong to each other” felt more true or more complex. We take very seriously our privilege and role in providing healthy and responsibly grown produce to the communities that need it most. And we have every reason to believe the need will only grow in the days ahead. However, we also take very seriously the role each of us play in “flattening the curve” and curbing this crisis. So for us “belonging to each other” means carefully balancing the demands of food production and distribution with the urgent need for social distancing.

To that end, we will not be scheduling any additional volunteers through at least May 17th. We hope that can change, but we want to err on the side of caution as well as avoid unnecessary scheduling and rescheduling. In the meantime, farm work will be limited to our staff and a small number of previously scheduled adult volunteers – mostly our vetted and trained “Lead Volunteers” – and never more than 7 volunteers on the farm at a time. This means we will be reaching out to many of you to cancel or reschedule your group for a later date.

We will continue to take extra precautions to ensure the long term safety of our community as well as the health of staff, volunteers, and the food we produce. In addition to our pre-existing food safety handling protocols we are also adopting enhanced protocols during all work, especially harvest and packing. These measures include but are not limited to, daily screening of anyone on the farm, sanitizing frequently touched surfaces (like bucket and tool handles) after every use, requiring the use of gloves where appropriate, washing all fabrics daily including gloves after every use, and organizing/assigning work in a way that allows workers to maintain a safe distance from others.

Currently the FDA says there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. We will continue to closely monitor updates from CDC, VDH, VDACS, and FDA. And we will continue to think strategically about the safest ways to get our produce to the community. We have already begun consolidating deliveries, shifting to a drop off system that limits human interactions, and increasing sanitation during delivery.

Most importantly, we recognize the importance of staying home if anyone displays ANY symptoms of COVID-19 or has any reason to believe they may have come in contact with someone who might be carrying COVID-19. To that end, we will continue providing paid sick leave to all employees including part time and seasonal farm staff.

We don’t want to overwhelm your inbox or newsfeed, but we will provide additional updates as appropriate in the coming days and weeks. If you have any questions or concerns, I can be directly reached at dominic@shalomfarms.org. For those currently experiencing food insecurity or looking to volunteer, we recommend our partners at:

Be good to yourself and each other in the coming weeks…and remember that in almost all cases “being good to each other” right now means avoiding each other and finding other ways to build community.

Thank you,
Dominic Barrett
Executive Director