Strawberry Season is Here – Considerations for Direct Marketers

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Delaware and Maryland continue to have stay-at-home orders. Social distancing, face mask use, and increased hand washing/sanitizing will be the new norm for this season. The goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep customers and farm employees safe.

With strawberry season at hand, the following are some considerations for growers that market directly to consumers.

It is important to get the message out that food is essential and having fresh local berries for customers is a valuable service that you are continuing to provide.

Inform your customers through available communication channels (traditional media, social media, website) of the following:

When you are opening and prices (prepicked, u-pick), hours

Changes in farm procedures to provide a safe environment during the COVID-19 outbreak and to avoid food borne illnesses

  • Not to come if sick
  • Practice social distancing of 6’
  • Wear face mask
  • Parking and entrances, areas customers may access
  • Hand washing and/or hand sanitizing areas, all pickers must wash hands
  • All pickers must use containers provided by farmer.
  • Absolutely no sampling in the field.

Signs, Signs, Signs
Provide signage that informs customers on:

  • Farm guidelines
  • Do not enter if sick
  • Hand washing
  • Distancing, 6’ distancing marks
  • Check-in and check-out procedures
  • Prices
  • Field distancing for U-pick
  • Areas the public is allowed and not allowed
  • Do not touch the prepacked berries before buying

Many of these signs are on-line and can be printed.

In U-pick areas, communicate how pickers should enter and leave the field. Mark out picking areas with flags or tape that reinforces distancing. Limit the number of customers in the field and make sure that customers are spread out.

Sales Considerations
Extra attention should be paid to sales and sales areas. The following are some ideas to consider:

  • Encourage customers to use correct change.
  • Package in a container (quart, 2 quart) and charge a flat fee per container instead of by the pound.
  • Have u-pick by appointment. Use scheduling apps to schedule u-pick.
  • Sell as many pre-picked berries as possible.
  • Use online ordering and scheduled pickup.
  • Have markings on the ground indicating 6-foot spaces in payment areas
  • Consider using online money transfers to limit contact with customers.
  • Collect money first then issue picking containers for u-pick
  • Have a drop box for cash paying customers.
  • Ask customer to swipe their cards, omit signatures
  • Use gloves and proper disposal of gloves when payments
  • Sanitize after each transaction.

Sanitary Practices
Sanitary practices should be increased. Maintain good hand washing stations. Keep filled with water and keep stocked with soap and single use paper towels. Maintain trash cans for proper towel disposal. If hand sanitizer stations are used, monitor regularly and keep stocked.

Sales and service employees and farm workers that pick strawberries should also wash their hands regularly: before starting work, before putting on gloves, after using the restroom, after breaks, and any other time that hands may have become contaminated.

Clean and sanitize all contact surfaces. Clean and disinfect high touch areas several times a day. Wipe scales after each weighing. Clean and disinfect reusable picking containers after each use. Clean and disinfect sales areas often.