Apple picking is about to start in Vermont. Here’s how it will look during COVID-19

Fall is almost upon us, and a number of local orchards are gearing up for the start of apple picking season this weekend. 

Some orchards are planning to open on Saturday to members of the public so they can pick their own apples. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, apple picking will look a bit differently this year. Each farm has been asked to adopt a written plan to ensure the safety of employees and customers.

Specific rules may vary depending on the orchard, but the Agency of Agriculture has issued guidelines for farms that allow visitors to pick their own produce.

Apples are ready for picking at Shelburne Orchards on Oct. 19, 2019.

Face coverings & capacity limits

Per Gov. Phil Scott’s executive order, customers should wear facial coverings whenever they are interacting with others from outside their household. Individual farms may require that customers wear face masks. 

Farms must admit no more than one customer per 200 square feet of crop space available for picking, the Agency of Agriculture said. If demand exceeds available space, farms may pre-schedule customer visits. 

Customers are also prohibited from congregating on site before, during and after picking. 

All customers and employees must stay at least six feet apart, both while customers are waiting to enter the picking area and while inside that area, the agency said. Farms must manage the flow of customers to maintain social distancing.

Sampling what you’ve picked 

Want to take a taste of what you’ve picked on site? Not this year, the Agency of Agriculture says. On-site food consumption, including the items a customer picked, is not allowed.

Allenholm Farm Apple Orchard in South Hero, founded in 1870, is itself multi-generational Ñ seven and counting.

Sanitation of containers and tools

Picking containers can be any of the following: 

  • Clean containers provided by the customers, who maintain exclusive control over them.
  • Disposable containers provided by the farm for the customers to take home.
  • Reusable containers that employees thoroughly clean and disinfect before each use.

Tools or any other devices that could be used by multiple customers must also be cleaned and sanitized between each use, the agency said.

Outdoor transactions when possible

The agency is recommending that farms have outdoor transaction stations whenever possible. These stations must have a sneeze guard, get cleaned and disinfected regularly and have a hand washing station or hand sanitizer available.

The agency also recommends doing transactions in advance when possible, and conducting all transactions without cash. 

More information about the guidelines from the Agency of Agriculture can be found at agriculture.vermont.gov/covid-19-information/covid-19-sector-guidance-news.

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-651-4835 or emurray@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.

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