Mind Your Farm Business — Ep. 49: Staying safe on the farm during COVID-19

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

What happens if you, someone else on the farm, or one of your employees gets sick or must self-isolate during the spring planting or calving season?

It’s a scenario every farm should prepare for in the midst of the current pandemic, says Jennifer Wright.

A cough or a runny nose is usually not an excuse for staying out of a tractor, especially with the time-sensitive tasks of spring on the farm, but the “work through it” attitude doesn’t apply to COVID-19.

“This is not the time to take that approach. If yourself or one of your employees is sick you need to support them to self-isolate,” says Wright, who serves as senior HR advisor and stakeholder engagement specialist with the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council.

She joins us for this Mind Your Farm Business episode to discuss how to come up with a plan for minimizing COVID-19 risk on farms during the busy spring season.

So to repeat, what happens if you or one of your employees can’t work?

For some farms, especially larger operations, it might make sense to have a few extra people around to fill gaps if someone has to enter isolation. But for many farms, getting the crop in or the calves delivered depends on a solo operator, or a husband and wife team. Maybe there are some children or a worker or two who can step in, but can they pull it off themselves? What if they live under the same roof and also have to enter self-isolation?

That’s where Wright highly recommends coming up with a community plan involving neighbours who have similar operations.

“Create those plans before you’re actually in that situation where you need some help,” she suggests.

Given the higher risks COVID-19 presents for seniors, 2020 might also have to be the year that the older generation isn’t relied on for help, says Wright.

When it comes to prevention, hand washing, increased cleaning, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and distancing — all the steps recommended by public health authorities — also apply on farms.

Finally, Wright reminds us to take measures to maintain mental health — both our own, and that of employees, as the pandemic-related stress and worries add up.

Check out Jennifer Wright’s conversation about managing your farm through COVID-19 with RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney in this latest Mind Your Farm Business podcast episode:

Disclaimer: Royal Bank of Canada and its subsidiaries are not responsible for the information provided in this podcast, and this information does not necessarily reflect the views of Royal Bank of Canada or any of its subsidiaries. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its subsidiaries.

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