Building Resilience With Labor and Workforce Planning

Offering a curated list of resources on labor and workforce issues for farmers and employees to navigate COVID-19.

Whether you hire labor or rely on your family to support a farm’s operations, or you work on a farm, you need to be prepared for the possibility that you or others working beside you may fall sick due to COVID-19 this season.

Many of us may feel that this won’t happen to us since we have been following the recommendations of physical distancing and hand washing and we spend most of our time outside. We certainly hope that you stay healthy.

Resilience, however, is about being able to bounce back from a challenge. None of us can predict the future, but we can prepare ourselves by doing some contingency planning.

Now is a good time to review your farm plan and redesign activities for physical distancing. It’s also important to have backup plans to make sure the essential work gets done, and consider how to care for those who may fall ill.

We will continue to update our farm resilience resource page as new information becomes available.

Want to know what you can do now for your farm?

This article from the CCE South Central NY Dairy & Field Crops Team covers “Biosecurity for People: 7 Steps to Protect Farmworkers from COVID-19.” While this article targets dairy producers, it provides an overview of steps any farmer can take to help manage COVID-19 risks.

The CDC has created posters about COVID-19, in multiple languages, that inform about the disease, highlight how to slow the spread, and what to do if you do get sick. Post these on the farm.

Looking for resources and support as you consider your workforce plan?

The Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development is the university’s homebase for all things agricultural labor. Stay informed with expert advice and current guidance for farm employers and employees alike.

The Cornell Institute for Food Safety is a hub of quick references for producers and employers from up-to-date regulations to a strategy checklist on what to do if you, or your workforce tests positive for COVID-19.

New York Extension Disaster Education Network (NY EDEN) connects the ag industry to the vast amount of research backed information available through the larger Cornell community. They have a collection of links about COVID-19, including simple steps we can all take to stop the spread of the virus, farm and food industry resources, and more.

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has the latest guidance and need-to-know information for the entire agricultural industry. They’ve created an official COVID-19 resource page that is updated as new information becomes available, check back often.

The CDC has provided “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” which details information specific to business owners and employers to plan, prepare, and respond.

The New York Farm Bureau is addressing economic and public policy issues facing the agricultural industry, and is a complete resource for farm business owners and employers, including daily updates to federal and state ag labor policy.

The New York State Department of Labor is the official source of information for agricultural employers. They have specific information regarding paid sick leave, family leave, and regulations for employers and business owners.

The United States Department of Agriculture offers federal guidance regarding the H2A/H2B guest worker programs, farm business loan packages, and updates from local USDA farm service offices. They are responding to labor related questions from farmers via email at

Farm Commons offers legal advice for farm business owners navigating through uncertain territory. They have a solid collection of resources from workforce and business structures to land matters and insurance. Their site also features farmer question and answer sessions and live podcasts addressing these COVID-19 specific topics: managing a workforce, online platforms and CSA distribution, and diversifying farm sales.

Need information specific to Spanish-speaking farm employees?

The Cornell Farm Worker Program is dedicated to improving the lives of farmworkers in NYS. They are developing and updating resources, and currently have a Spanish-language informational COVID-19 video.

The National Center for Farmworker Health has Spanish and English language resources regarding emergency preparedness and general guidance for migrant farmworkers and their employers. This is an essential source of information and updates for agricultural employers of migrant or guest workers.

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.