Bulletin #2516, Managing Farmers Market Seedling Sales Safely in Maine: Best Practices and Recommendations for Marketing During COVID-19

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Information for COVID-19

Developed by Jason Lilley, Sustainable Agriculture Professional, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Reviewed by Caleb Goosen, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and Rachel Schattman, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, University of Maine

For information about UMaine Extension programs and resources, visit extension.umaine.edu.
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seedlingsBest practices for

  • Communication and marketing to the public
  • Retail space layout
  • Crowd control
  • Collection of payment (cash box, in-person, online)

To keep farm crews, customers, and families safe during this COVID-19 outbreak, new systems need to be developed and implemented to meet CDC based guidance for farms. Ultimately, the goal is to maximize space between people (> 6’), to minimize touchpoints, and to implement systems to sanitize areas of frequent contact.

Seedling sales

Seeding sales pose a unique problem for safe sales during the COVID-19 outbreak, due to the large amount of area that the plants take up and the large number of customers that shop for them in a relatively short period of time. Adjusting your retail seedling sales layout, customer flow, and payment methods all need to be planned in advance. Those plans need to be clearly communicated to your customers.

Farmers Markets

  • Check with your Farmers Market Managers and be sure to follow all guidance from them and the DACF.
  • Communication and marketing to the public:
    • Update your website and social media with clear communication about your systems for how customers can purchase your products.
      • Post messages about new Farmers Market rules on social media, to inform customers of expectations prior to going to market.
      • Be positive and appropriate in that communication.
      • Show the community that you are using recommended practices for sanitation and distancing.
        • Example: Avoid posting pictures from last year’s sales that show a packed market.
      • Encourage customers to bring and wear a facemask while shopping.
      • Clarify your hours, if you are taking orders online or over the phone, and anything else critical to the success of your system.
      • Specify special payment methods if applicable.
    • See Social Media Best Practices in Times of Crisis.
  • Retail space layout
    • Put up barriers and signage posting your policies (PDF) in front of your booth (if allowable by the market).
      • Barriers keep the traffic flowing in one direction, minimizing person to person contact.
      • Put markers every 6’ on the ground, or along the barriers to designate space between customers, in case a line forms.
      • Provide hand sanitizer and/or a handwashing station at the entrance.
      • If using boxes to aid shopping, do not reuse those boxes. The virus is believed to survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours.
    • Product display area
      • Increase space between plants to clearly display them. This minimizes the need for customers to pick up and handle containers to inspect them.
      • Post signage throughout the sales area encouraging customers to only touch or pick up containers that they intend to purchase.
      • Make large signs to display plant type, variety, cost, and other details that may be on the small tags, to eliminate the need to touch the small tags.
      • Consider surfaces that someone would be likely to touch frequently (tent posts, baskets, bench edges, etc.) and clean and sanitize (if possible) on a set schedule.
      • During any season, be sure to do a safety walk-through before opening to the public to address tripping hazards, sharp corners and objects, unsecured overhead items, etc.
  • Crowd control options
    • Limit the number of customers browsing the seedlings. Clearly post what that limit is.
    • If space permits, consider placing seedlings behind your booth, to allow for people to spread out more.
    • Encourage a flow where customers approach your booth on one side, and pay and exit on another.
    • Consider requiring pre-orders by phone, e-mail or online purchasing platform.
  • Checkout options

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2020

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