May 10, 2021
Tips to better prepare farms against COVID-19 for upcoming harvest

Farm owners and workers play a key role in the Florida food production system and are truly essential. COVID-19 caused a major disruption on the 2020 fresh vegetable and fruit crop growing season.

University of Florida and the Centers for Disease Control CDC have provided an immense amount of resources, that are included here. These recommendations are to better prepare you and your farm workers for the upcoming 2021 watermelon harvest season and overall, help limit potential risks of exposure.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, chills, repeated shaking with chills, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell. COVID-19 is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Farm workers are at a high risk of developing COVID-19 due to three main factors:

  1. Distance between workers – farm workers are often in close contact
  2. Type of contact – from respiratory droplets or through contact with contaminated surfaces
  3. Duration of contact – prolonged contact with potentially infected individuals increases spread

Farm owners can help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 by taking time to think and act safely. It is recommended for owners to develop a COVID-19 assessment, a control plan, and consider screening farm workers for COVID-19 symptoms. Options for screening workers prior to entry into the work site or before boarding shared transportation​ include asking workers if they have had a fever or other respiratory symptoms, checking temperatures of workers to identify any with a fever of 100.4℉ or greater, not allowing employees to enter the workplace with a high temperature or COVID-19 symptoms, or encouraging workers to report symptoms immediately. Grower and Worker COVID-19 Educational Resources can be found online – https://extadmin.ifas.ufl.edu/resources/grower-and-worker-education/

To further protect and reduce exposure to farm workers, it is recommended to:
  • Communicate and educate workers on COVID-19 symptoms and protection practices
  • Wear PPE (face coverings)
  • Get vaccinated if possible
  • Eliminate exposure hazards on the farm, such as excluding sick workers and visitors
  • Implement protocols for cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing tools/workplace
  • Encourage physical distancing by remaining 6-feet apart
  • Divide crews up into smaller groups or reduce crew sizes
  • Stagger work shifts, mealtimes, and breaks
  • Alternate field rows
  • Arrange shift schedules for workers to be around the same coworkers
  • Rearrange chairs and tables in break rooms to allow for proper social distancing
  • Allow for family members to be kept together in housing facilities
  • Install extra hand-washing stations
  • Provide hand sanitizer, cloth face coverings, masks, or disposable gloves to workers
  • Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before eating or touching the face
  • Limit the share of agricultural tools and/or sanitize tools after use
  • Clean harvest baskets, bags, aprons, knives, etc. after each use
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces – handles, steering wheels, keyboards
  • Hang informational posters where farm workers can see them – housing, laundromats, buses

For questions on COVID-19 protocols this upcoming harvest season or if there is a sign you would like on your farm that is not within this list, contact your local Extension office. Information provided by the University of Florida and CDC.

To download/view this document in PDF format, including some further resources and informational posters for printing: click here.

Sylvia Willis, UF/IFAS Agricultural Extension Agent – Suwannee County
[email protected], Tel: (386) 362-2771


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