FDACS, farmers take extra safety precautions amid ongoing pandemic

Posted at 5:27 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 17:27:31-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla — Florida's farms feed over 150 million people a year and keeping the people who harvest that produce safe from COVID-19 is crucial.

As the state's Department of Agriculture rolls out a new safety video campaign for workers, one local farmer says he knows firsthand how dangerous the virus is as thousands across the state rebound this fall.

You might remember tomato farmer Graves Williams from previous Rebound stories we've shown you.

"I spent three weeks in the bed and thought I was going to die," said Williams.

Earlier this year, he equipped his 650 workers with personal protective equipment. None of his employees got sick, but he wasn't so lucky.

"My wife and I, out of my 650 employees, were the only two people who got COVID who work for me," Williams said.

That was over the summer. Williams thinks he caught it at a restaurant, not on the farm.

Even so, he's taking extra steps this fall to keep his workers safe.

"We're expanding our spraying for the virus," said Williams.

In addition to ideas, the Department of Agriculture is sharing a new video campaign across the state.

That's because Florida's agriculture industry is the number two economic driver in the state.

"If our farm workers that are essential to not only our economy but our livelihood are unable to work, it is a spiral down effect in the food supply chain," said Nikki Fried, the commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The videos are produced in English and Spanish. They include best practices on using a mask while working, ways to sanitize hands, and work surfaces effectively.

However, many farms are in very rural parts of Florida where there's not great access to the internet.

"In some of those areas, that's why we also have the information printed in the fliers," Fried said.

All to prevent what happened to Williams from happening to his essential workers.

"Without taking care of your workers, especially when you're trying to harvest produce, you don't have much of a chance of harvesting your crop," said Williams.

Williams' fall harvest season runs October through the end of November.

He's hiring local workers to help right now.

For more information on FDACS video series, click here.

To view the videos in English, click here. To view the videos in Spanish, click here. A printable version of the safety guidance is available by clicking here.