The farm at Cloud City Conservation Center is preparing for the summer season and making adjustments to past years’ operations to safely continue work through the pandemic.
Cloud City Farm personnel started preparing for the growing season in early March, and have been working towards summer plans in the weeks since, Emily Olsen, executive director of the Cloud City Conservation Center (C4), said.
As planting began, the farm was only able to have one person working, to abide by safety measures put in place to help limit the spread of COVID-19. In recent weeks, one intern has been able to join to help with planting, Lani Meyer, farm manager, said.
Producing and preparing to distribute food has required several changes for the farm and C4.
Among the adjustments is the shift away from the community supported agriculture (CSA) model of food distribution that the farm has used in the past to a market that will be hosted at the farm.
CSA programs rely on participants buying in to the program at the beginning of the season and receiving food deliveries throughout the duration of the season. Seeing the safety risks in a delivery system as well as the potentially prohibitive expense of paying for the seasons’ produce upfront, C4 opted for a market to distribute this year’s crops, Olsen said.
“It didn’t feel inline with our mission,” Olsen explained of the CSA model and the limitations it poses this year.
Organizing the market has presented a different set of challenges in safe implementation.
As an organization that distributes food, the farm has had preexisting cleaning protocols in place, but the face-to-face sale of food at a market means people at the farm will have to adhere to social distancing protocols, wear face coverings, and try to limit the number of people at the market at one time.
The market will also continue to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Double Up Food Bucks program, meaning that every purchase made with food stamps will yield twice the value.
Some of the same measures to be put in place for the market will also apply to volunteers. The farm will limit the number of people able to volunteer at once and will concentrate volunteer efforts on projects that can be done by individuals as opposed to groups.
Volunteer opportunities were paused until recently to limit the number of people on the farm at one time. Drop-in volunteering has been eliminated in favor of scheduling participation ahead of time.
“We rely heavily on our volunteers,” Olsen said. “We could not do what we do without them.”
C4 plans to have new volunteer protocols publicly available by mid-May, including information on how to sign up for volunteer shifts.
The farm has already completed its annual plant sale, and is moving forward with full-scale food production with the goal of opening the market May 22.