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April 28, 2020

Harvest 19 rebooted in my county this past weekend. On our farm, we have a few days of field work that need to be done before seeding can commence. Add physical distancing requirements and a late spring melt to the mix and we’re all looking at an unusual and potentially stressful spring planting season.

We have a new full-time employee and a new seasonal staff member to help with seeding. With many Canadians laid off there’s been discussion around whether local workers can fill the agriculture jobs that temporary foreign workers are often brought in to do. For the benefit of everyone working on Alberta farms this spring, it’s important to discuss the usual safety issues as well as new concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While business owners should be leaders and can certainly set the direction, I’ve always thought that safety buy-in happens best when there is grassroots participation in setting the policies and protocols. On our farm, we simply asked, “Is there anything you see us doing around here that doesn’t seem safe to you?” This opened the door to valuable input from our farm employees. If you have new employees, they might bring good suggestions from previous workplaces.


Sanitizing products and distancing are now part of the daily routine on Alberta farms.


We’ve also tried (hopefully without being too nosy) to understand the health issues that people on our team (and their family members) face. Anything that may make them more vulnerable to complications from contracting a respiratory virus. As a result, we’ve modified some of our daily interactions. On Twitter, I’ve read about farmers setting up sub-teams within their main team so that certain people only interact with each other, thereby limiting the number of people who could be affected by a case of COVID-19. I don’t think this is feasible amongst our small staff, but we are stocked up on sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer for the trucks and tractors.

It’s not every spring Alberta farmers must harvest and seed while they deal with a global pandemic. Here’s hoping 2020 gets significantly less interesting as the weeks go by!

Sarah Hoffmann is a seed grower whose farm is located in the Three Hills area. She is a regular GrainsWest contributor.



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