Pick-Your-Own in the COVID Era

Farms balance high season with safety

At this time last year, members of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) program would socialize while on the farm to pick crops. 

Executive Director Ray Armater likened it to “an open house on the farm.” 

“Folks would hang around in the shade and talk and wait for other friends to come,” he said. 

That was pre-COVID-19.

Poughkeepsie Farm Project

Farmers Erin Moylan (left) and Lauren Kaplan at Poughkeepsie Farm Project (Photo by Beth Hentschel)

Now, socializing has been replaced by social-distancing. Local farms in the midst of their high season are running their pick-your-own programs in a new way — requiring visitors and CSA members to reserve a time slot so farms will not be overrun with people at a time when crowds are viewed as a risk for spreading the virus.

Fishkill Farms in Hopewell Junction is taking reservations to pick sweet cherries, raspberries and other fruits and produce.  

“Demand has been great,” said owner Josh Morgenthau. “We’re getting the same type of attendance we would normally get but it’s been spread out over more days and more hours, which is the goal.” 

With entry allowed for up to five people, ages 2 and older, picking at Fishkill Farms can still be a family activity. Among the changes, however, is a one-hour limit for picking and requirements that participants wear masks and attest that they haven’t had COVID-19 symptoms in the past few weeks, said Morgenthau. 

There is also a handwashing station that visitors must use before picking and a prohibition on eating fruit in the field. 

The Poughkeepsie Farm Project is limiting picking to CSA members, who must also reserve a time slot. Entry is restricted to the individual and one family member. Like Fishkill Farms, the farm project requires that visitors wash their hands before picking. 

“Our CSA members are great,” Armater said. “They really get it.”`

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