COVID-19 Response

Updated September 8, 2020

The Desert Farming Initiative is working hard to continue research projects, grow bountiful crops, and do our best to support the local food system during the COVID-19 crisis. We wanted to share the extra measures we are taking in response. As we learn more about this virus, we will adjust our practices accordingly. Farms are considered an essential business in our economy and community – DFI will remain in operation.

As a produce safety demonstration farm for the State of Nevada, we are available to help all growers prepare and adapt. Please reach out to us at dfi@cabnr.unr.edu for assistance.

Produce Safety Measures:

  • The DFI farm is closed to the public – The UNR campus, Experiment Station and facilities are generally closed to the public. Project partners and collaborators on the farm will follow the response guidance and procedures laid out here.
  • DFI’s Food Safety Plan and training – The DFI plan remains in full effect, meeting Food Safety Modernization Act and Good Agricultural Practices standards. All staff will be (re)trained on safe produce handling and additional measures summarized here, including UNR’s mandatory COVID-19 training for campus employees.
  • Employee illness – DFI has had no reported COVID-19 infections among staff and staff have been directed to self-monitor for symptoms on an ongoing basis. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness or fever will stay home and notify DFI and their physician. We are requiring that staff member to wait until they are symptom free and cleared by their physician and/or WCHD before returning to work. In the event that the UNR campus is opened to the general public, volunteers will only handle produce and packaging if they are fully trained on food safety procedures.
  • Sanitation of high touch areas – DFI staff are disinfecting all high touch areas/touch points with a disinfectant effective against COVID-19 regularly, following EPA and CCOF guidance. This includes but is not limited to all door handles, sinks, computers, mobile phones, tools, spigots, hoses, timers and spray handles at the Valley Road farm. Restrooms continue to be cleaned daily by UNR Facilities staff. The Farm Manager and Education Program Coordinator are responsible for all other daily disinfection.
  • Handwashing and gloves – Staff will wash hands when arriving at work, after eating, after restroom use/breaks, before/after handling face coverings, between tasks and before leaving work. Staff will not share work gloves for farm tasks – each staff person will be assigned a pair for their personal use only. Disposable gloves are optional on the farm. Disposable gloves will only be used on washed hands and they will be changed regularly, including after any action in which the gloves were damaged or could have been contaminated.
  • Social distancing and face coverings – DFI staff will maintain a distance of 6 feet of space between themselves and others on the farm and in DFI offices, and use no-touch greetings. Face coverings will be used during the wash and pack process for produce and for any necessary meetings or gatherings, but are not required when alone in DFI offices or for dispersed farm work. Face coverings will be managed as directed in the UNR mandatory COVID-19 training for employees.
  • Produce storage – The DFI walk-in cooler will be fully cleaned and sanitized every week when in use.
  • No produce sampling – DFI will not conduct produce sampling activities at farmers markets or farm stands this season.
  • Farm stands and farmers markets – Produce will only be handled and bagged by DFI staff; face coverings will be worn by DFI staff; a hand washing station will be set up and used by DFI staff; and social distancing will be implemented at all farm stands and markets. DFI will follow all associated NDA guidance.
  • Safe pick-up and delivery checklist – DFI will follow clean ‘Drop & Go’ produce delivery procedures, including:
    • Delivery staff wear clean clothes.
    • Delivery staff wear face coverings.
    • A clean liner is used in the DFI delivery vehicle for every produce delivery.
    • No-touch greetings are used with community partners.
    • A distance of 6 feet is maintained between people.
    • Disinfect high touch surfaces before deliveries, including but not limited to vehicle door handles, steering wheel and gears/levers.
    • Only DFI staff are to enter the DFI vehicle.
    • Hand carts will be disinfected after any use in deliveries.
    • Produce boxes and containers will not be placed on the ground.
    • Boxes will not be reused unless stored for at least 24 hours between uses. When boxes are reused, a clean liner is used to prevent cross contamination.

Thank you! We would like to thank all of those working to keep our food system healthy and robust at this time, including our staff who continue to come to work each day with courage and commitment. We also continue to look ahead and hope that a silver lining to this crisis will be a renewed focus on Nevada’s capacity for sustainable local food production. We encourage our community partners to contact us with any questions or need for assistance!

Moe, J. 2020, Desert Farming Initiative COVID-19 Response, Desert Farming Initiative, University of Nevada, Reno

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Also of Interest:

 
hands being washed in a sink
4-H Club Guidance for COVID-19 | Long Term Road to Recovey
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