Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Shelter in Place Order, local farmers and ranchers are still providing a stable food source for our community. While farmers and their employees are still working, as agriculture is listed as an essential business, their practices have been modified to ensure employee health and safety.
Maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for all agricultural employees has always been a top priority in the agriculture industry. In order to lower the impact of COVID-19 on employees, the farm employers have taken extra measures to protect employees’ health and safety so that farmers can continue to provide a stable, local food supply.
Many companies are switching to work from home practices for those employees who can, and have modified work environments for those who are still reporting to worksites. Social distancing is being enforced and proper workspace sanitation practices are being followed.
Loren Poncia of Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales raises grass-fed beef, lamb, and pork.
“My employees and I are following CDC guidelines and although our physical office is closed, the ranch employees are still tending to the livestock herds while maintaining social distancing from others,” Poncia said.
He said that although he is not able to sell his meat to restaurants that his online sales have really picked up and that he has the capability to sell and ship products directly to consumers' homes.
“I want to encourage consumers to shop online and at local stores that support local producers,” Poncia said. “I hope the community can support local agriculture during the Pandemic and realize how important our local agriculture industry is year-round.”
Many farmers and ranchers have adapted quickly to the new way of doing business under COVID-19 restrictions.
Scott Bice, Manager of Redwood Hill Farm, said that they have had to modify their offerings because of the restrictions.
“We are happy to be working and giving back to our community at this time,” Bice said. “Being a small diversified farm with goats, olives, hops, and flowers has been okay, but what has suffered is our agri-tourism.”
He said that they have had to cancel all farm tours, but now offer virtual tours of the farm via their website and social media to ensure the public’s and their employees’ safety.
Valley Ford sheep and cattle rancher Joe Pozzi said that he has made it a priority to review and implement all the safety measures to make sure his employees are protected and comfortable with their working roles on the ranch.
“Since we are out in a rural area we have an ample amount of space and feel good with current working conditions,” Pozzi said. “We aren't taking this situation lightly and are following all necessary protocols to keep safe.”
He said that he is able to keep the ranch running during the COVID-19 Pandemic because of organizations like the Sonoma County Farm Bureau who advocated for agriculture to be listed as an Essential Business under the Shelter in Place Order and send out up to date information related to employer and employee safety.
“The County recognized the importance of the local food that farmers provide our community and gave us the ability to take care of our ranches and livestock so that we, in turn, can continue to produce food.”
He said that regional demand for food supplies for the home has increased and therefore, he has been asked to increase production to meet that demand.
“I hope this unfortunate pandemic helps people recognize the importance of food security and distributing food locally,” Pozzi said. “This situation brings awareness to how serious it is to have a strong local food supply and I know that farmers will continue to provide this for our community while keep us and our employees safe. We will all get through this together.”
For more information about how the guidelines and practices farmers and ranchers have been made aware of are implementing to keep them and their employees safe, please visit our website or visit the California Farm Bureau Federation Coronavirus Farm and Ranch Resource page
For more information contact Sonoma County Farm Bureau at 707-544-5575 or Tawny@sonomafb.org