COVID-19 Update for Nursery Operations and Seafood Processors

Update 4/2/20: At this time, horticulture is designated as a non-essential business (with the exception of nurseries/greenhouses selling food producing plants). Please note that landscaping for maintenance and pest control purposes has been designated as essential. Please consult the Empire State Development Corporation’s (ESD) guidance for further information on essential businesses. The guidance below, issued on March 24, 2020, is no longer applicable. Horticultural operations should continue to check with NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets at for any updates.

Interim Guidance for Horticulture and Seafood from NYS Ag & Markets

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets released the following Interim Guidance for Horticulture on March 24, 2020.

The department also released Interim Guidance for Temporary Seafood (Fish and Shellfish) Processing and/or Retail Sale on March 23, 2020.

This guidance provided below is for greenhouse operations, landscapers, arborists, garden centers, and nurseries.


In December 2019, a new respiratory disease called Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) was detected in China. COVID-19 is caused by a virus (SARS-CoV-2) that is part of a large family of viruses called coronaviruses.

On March 20, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed the “PAUSE” Executive Order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone. It includes a new directive that all nonessential businesses statewide must close in-office personnel functions effective at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. Essential businesses are exempt from this guidance.

Horticulture operations as defined below have been deemed essential and are exempt.

Horticultural Operations:

For purposes of Executive Order 202.6/PAUSE Executive Order, “Essential Business” states “agriculture/farms,” which includes the horticulture industry. As outlined in Agriculture and Markets Law Article 25-AA Section 301, horticulture is a key component of agriculture and New York State farms.

For horticultural operations, the Department defines the following businesses/activities as consistent with Executive Order 202.6:

  • Production, movement, maintenance, and sale of vegetable plants, nursery stock, trees, plants, and flowers at greenhouse and nursery operations.
  • Tree and shrub trimming and removal for disease, safety, and public health purposes.
  • The placement and ground maintenance of sod, landscaping plants, flowers, ornamentals, and trees on residential and commercial grounds.
  • Transportation necessary to meet any of the above functions.
  • Agribusiness, including the sale and application of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and minerals, that support any of the above functions.

If a business does not fall within this guidance, but you believe that it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions, you may request designation as an essential business. You can request designation as an essential business online.

For Employees: Cleaning/Disinfecting and Social Distancing

All privately-owned facilities must practice social distancing, and proper cleaning and sanitizing of the facility.

This includes:

  • Regular hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds should be done:
    • Before and after eating.
    • After sneezing, coughing, or nose blowing.
    • After touching face, hair, cellphone and/or clothing.
    • After using the restroom.
    • Before handling food.
    • After touching or cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated.
    • After using shared equipment and supplies.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or the corner of elbow.
  • Dispose of soiled tissues immediately after use.

It is encouraged to post signage with hand washing procedures in prominent locations. Clean and disinfect buildings and equipment as outlined in this guidance.

For Additional Information:

Kacey Deamer

Kacey is the Communications Manager for the Cornell Small Farms Program. In this role, she manages all storytelling and outreach across the program’s website, social media, e-newsletter, magazine and more. Kacey has worked in communications and journalism for more than a decade, with a primary focus on science and sustainability.
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