- Working as a Grower During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As 2020 comes to a close and as we reflect on everything this past year, here is a blog written by one of our Growers, Sam. Read about her experience and perspective as an essential worker during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you everyone for your support and for believing in our mission and work in 2020. We wish you a Happy New Year and a Happy 2021!
I have worked at Red Wiggler since the spring of 2007. The 2020 farm season was the first time I ever worked during a pandemic. It has definitely been a different farm season than what I’m used to. Working at the farm during a pandemic has been different simply because not as many people are working at the same time due to the need to have smaller groups in order to practice social distancing. I liked that I could have time by myself at the wash station. At times, one other person would help me if there were a lot of vegetables coming out of the field at the same time that needed to be washed before being packed. This was the case with greens that were coming out of the field. Sometimes washing the carrots was a little challenging depending on how muddy they were. If the carrots were muddy or if the mud on them was dried, they took a little more time to wash. Since carrots don’t always grow straight, there were a lot of places mud could hide. Because of this, there were also times when washing carrots seemed to take a long time, especially if I wanted to be thorough with making the vegetables as clean as I could before they were packed. Unless there were different types of vegetables coming out of the field at the same time, I liked that I was able to work by myself at the wash station. Being by myself at times made the wash/pack process a little longer, though if I had the option to work by myself in most cases, I would prefer to do that.
My work at the farm during this season has been a little more predictable. There were a lot of mornings in the spring and fall when I was working during this season when I knew what I was working on even before I got to the farm. Then when I was told, it was more just confirming where I had a feeling I’d be working. In the summer, this was a little less predictable only because not as many vegetables are grown in the summer that needed to be washed. While it was known I didn’t mind being in the field, I enjoyed working more at the wash station being that I was the leader of a task and made the decisions at times. I think part of the reason my work was more predictable this season was that I wasn’t working every day so it wasn’t a typical farm season. In most cases on the two days I worked, we were harvesting, so I had a pretty good idea I’d be spending my morning working at the wash station. I was fairly certain this would be where I was working for the morning knowing that I’m thorough with washing the vegetables. I take my time to get them as clean as I possibly can, instead of rushing through and having to rewash them if I still found chunks of mud on them.
I felt it was harder to train new people at the wash station for the simple reason that the way I might do something, might not be the same way someone else does the same thing. This was the same thing I said about being a leader, and I feel it applies in both situations.
When we were transplanting, I liked how I would start off by planting the transplants. Once enough people had joined to help with the transplanting, I was asked to switch and helped set up the drip lines for the irrigation.
One impact of the pandemic was during the stay-at-home order, I wasn’t working as much. I was also disappointed I couldn’t bring home more tomatoes because it was a bad tomato year.
Another impact of the pandemic was that because I don’t drive, I had to rely on other people to help me with transportation, versus using my usual means of taking a taxi in the morning and taking a bus home in the afternoon. As a result of the pandemic this year, I feel I lost some of my independence because if I needed to get anything on the way home from work, for example, cat food, someone needed to take me. Before the pandemic started, I could go where I needed to go and get what I needed then get on the bus to go home by myself. I understand these were necessary precautions to take so I wouldn’t be exposed to the virus, though because of that, was why I felt like I lost a big part of my independence–since once the virus started someone had to take me to do those things.
Knowing that people, food banks, and others are in need of food, especially now, working at the farm during this time allows food, specifically fresh vegetables, to be provided to food banks that offer these to people that might not have access to them. Providing vegetables to a food bank also allows people to try different vegetables that they might not have access to at a grocery store, much less it wouldn’t be as fresh.