The coronavirus and public health measures being implemented across the country can cause anxiety for farmers. George Crave of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese says this situation is a great example of why it’s important to have a crisis plan for your business.
“We reviewed crisis plans with our teams this morning so that everyone is clear what steps will be taken should our business be impacted by sick employees or school closures,” he says. “We recently had 15% of our team out with the flu for a few days so we’ve recently had experience overcoming these kinds of challenges, but reviewing the plan is key.”
According to Lyle Orwig of Charleston|Orwig widely known for his expertise in crisis management, there are few things every farm can do to limit the impact of COVID-19 to their farms.
- Understand how the virus spreads. “Understanding how the virus spreads, is the best way to prevent it,” he says. “I think the hardest thing for some people is how do you avoid not shaking hands? I mean, it's a natural thing in this country but you shouldn't do it anymore. You could fist bump, but shaking hands is something that until this is over, is something that you should slap your hand and not do.”
- Keep employees healthy. Staff who are sick should stay home, Orwig says. “Additionally, consider checking employee’s temperatures before they come on the premises. Elevated temperatures should be sent home.” Also have hand sanitizers and Kleenex available for employees. Consider providing employees construction-grade face masks. “They won’t prevent the virus from spreading in the air, but it will keep employees from touching their noses and mouths which is one of the ways the virus spreads.”
- Limit visitors to your farm.
- Consider ‘bring your kids to work’ days. If schools in your area are shut down and employees are not able to come to work because of it, consider letting them bring kids with them, Orwig says.
- Have a backup plan for covering sick employees. In a tight labor market, it can seem impossible to have a backup plan, but there will likely be people who are not able to work in a place of business but can’t work from home. “I would ask my employees if they have any of their friends who are staying at home and can't work from home, because their businesses shut down,” Orwig says.
Orwig’s No. 1 tip: Keep calm.