Recommendations for U-Pick Farms During COVID-19

hands holding fresh strawberries

The sense of community created from U-Pick can feed farmers’ spirits as customers fill their buckets.
Anu Rangarajan / Cornell Small Farms Program

U-Pick is a critical direct marketing approach for many of our small farms and provides customers with a unique connection to fresh produce grown close to home. The time spent outdoors gathering one’s own produce is a chance to share in our local bounty, support our farmers, and stock up for the future.

U-Pick farms from around the country have reported an increase in customers who are hungry for all of these opportunities during this pandemic. What will it take to be ready for our U-Pick season?

In light of what we understand about the spread of COVID-19, new management practices will be needed to protect your U-Pick farm team and your customers. This will take some more planning as well as possibly adding more staff to your team.

To help you, we have created this set of best management practices (BMPs) for operating a U-Pick farm during COVID-19. Our team included me, Marvin Pritts (Cornell Berry Specialist), Elizabeth Bihn (Produce Safety Alliance), Laura McDermott (ENY Horticulture Team Berry Specialist) and Esther Kibbe (Harvest NY Berry Specialist).

Best Management Practices for U-Pick Farms During the COVID-19 Pandemic

These BMPs focus on handwashing, physical distancing, and sanitation of surfaces. There are several tactics that should be implemented before the season begins. Developing a clear communication strategy with your customers will be central to making sure that everyone understands, before they arrive at the farm, that we are in this together.

The online BMPs will be updated weekly based upon any new guidance we receive from NYSDAM or NYDOH. There is also a PDF version that you can download and share with your staff, since this will take a team effort.

As you prepare for the season, please share with us pictures from your U-Pick farm using #CornellSmallFarms on social media.

If you have questions about these recommendations or other ideas for farmers, please share them via our form.

Anu Rangarajan

Anu was appointed director the Cornell Small Farms Program in 2004. At the same time, she opened a U-pick strawberry farm in Freeville, NY. The experience of operating a small farm changed her entire approach to research and extension, and deepened her commitment to NY farms and local food systems.
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