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Tips for setting up safe experience for customers during pandemic

social distancing sign in corn maze
DISTANCED AND SAFE: Forrest Hall Farm in Mechanicsville, Md., made several changes to accommodate customers in 2020, including a more socially distanced fall corn maze.
Online ordering became huge last year, so here are some videos to help you set something up.

So, how can producers take advantage of potential new opportunities to make money during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Brian Moyer, program associate with Penn State Extension, says producers who were successful learned how to change quickly. Online ordering was huge in 2020, he says, but this took time for producers to develop.

Here are two videos developed by Penn State Extension on how to develop an online ordering system:

One thing to remember, Moyer says, is to put clear descriptions of the product you’re trying to sell online.

The pandemic, he says, introduced many people to farm markets and on-farm experiences that they might not have done before. Identifying those new customers and getting their information, Moyer says, is key to ensuring they come back and to communicate about what’s happening on the farm.

On pick-your-own operations, producers are moving away from scaling and weighing what a customer picks to just charging them by the container. Some producers, Moyer says, also are using timed ticketing to control crowds, especially during the strawberry- and apple-picking seasons.

But crowd control was still an issue on many farms, he says, largely because of traffic flow.

“The traffic flow in some areas just didn’t work because of how people shop,” Moyer says. “Nobody looks down at arrows.”

A better alternative is placing signs at eye level so people clearly see where they’re supposed to go.

Finding good help was also an issue for some farms. “Either folks were afraid to work in that retail environment, and in some cases, they just had folks who couldn’t handle that retail stress when it’s that busy,” Moyer says.

Lisa Chase, Extension specialist of natural resources with University of Vermont Extension and director of the Vermont Tourism Research Center, helped develop a list of best management practices for farms open to visitors during the pandemic:

be safe and make money during covid infographic

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