These are extraordinary times. This is a bit long. Please stick with me – this is important.
You will all have heard that Wake County has issued a Proclamation of Emergency Restrictions (the Stay at Home Proclamation) to slow the spread of COVID-19. You may have wondered how this will affect the garden. The proclamation is long, but it lists the types of operations that are excluded from the closing directive. One of these is “Food cultivation, including farming, livestock and fishing.” Having read that, I called the hotline that Wake County set up to answer questions about these new restrictions – they agree that the Community Garden is exempt from the closing directive as long as we comply with the recommended social distancing practices. I also spoke with the Apex Police Department to make sure that they concur and that they are aware of what we are doing and why. I share this with you to explain that we CAN continue to grow food for our neighbors in need with some modifications. That is step one.
Step two is your decision and it’s a critical one. There are several good reasons for not coming to the garden during this time:
- If you are sick or even feeling a little unwell, please do not come! Even if you think it’s allergies, or any of a laundry list of other possibilities, do not come! If you have been exposed to anyone who is sick, please do not come.
- If you or anyone in your household have any underlying health conditions or concerns that would put you at greater risk, please do not come.
- If you don’t feel comfortable with the level of risk that working at the garden might bring, we understand, please do not come.
It’s important for us to remember that although we may want the garden to remain open for our mental health in these challenging times, the only thing that is truly essential about what we do is that we provide thousands of pounds of fresh, organic produce to our neighbors who are in greater need now than they may have ever been. We all know that this is causing the worst hardships for the people that can least afford it. As such, I would suggest we all consider sending the majority of our produce to the food banks and even continue to bring canned and dry goods to send along when we can.
Here are the new guidelines we will implement to allow us to comply with the new directive and keep each other safe:
- We will limit gardeners to 10 people at a time during workdays. I know this isn’t our custom and perhaps isn’t ideal, but this is what we can do for now. I have set up a signup genius for our regular Saturday and Tuesday workdays with 8 slots for each hour to allow for garden leaders. Please do not sign up for more than one slot each workday. I will post the slots one week in advance. If all of the slots are not filled and you would like to stay longer, that will be fine, but please understand our need to share the ability to work at the garden. Here is the link for this week: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0B4BA9A72D6-garden. Once you sign up, I will send you a travel letter that says you are participating in an exempt activity and therefore may travel to and from the Garden.
- We are in the process of setting up an electronic system of tracking who is working at the garden at what times. That will allow us to notify you if someone who was working at the same time you were there becomes ill. I pray this will never be necessary, but it is a reasonable precaution. The system is simple and a garden leader will walk you through it when you arrive. You will need to check in when you arrive and check out when you leave. If you do not have a smart phone, anyone who does can check you in/out.
- Garden tasks will be planned so that we can maintain the social distancing requirement of a minimum of 6 feet. Please be aware of your surroundings and comply with this at all times. There will be a sign on the shed to remind you that only ONE person can be inside at a time. Please wait a reasonable distance away until your turn to enter.
- Gardeners will be required to wash their hands with soap and water at the rain barrels at the back of the shed when they arrive.
- You MUST bring your own gloves, wear them while gardening and take them home and wash them when you leave. The box of gloves at the garden has been removed.
- Please do not share tools with anyone. If you use a tool, lean it against the fence near the picnic tables or put hand tools in the bin on the picnic table. They will be sprayed with bleach spray, allowed to dry and put away at the end of garden.
- Please use disposable gloves when harvesting and collect directly into clean bags.
- If you come to the garden during a time other than official workdays to dump your compost, weed, water, pick flowers or herbs, please abide by all of these rules.
- The picnic tables at the garden may only used by individuals or those from a single household. We do not have the ability to sanitize bare wood very well, so please use the tables with caution. You are welcome to bring your own chair if you feel more comfortable and need to rest while you’re at garden.
I recognize that working together in a community garden could be challenging under these extraordinary circumstances, but it could also be more important now than it ever has been. I hope that you agree and will continue to support the mission of the garden in whatever way you feel comfortable. Please abide by the measures outlined above so we can continue to provide for those who need it.
If you have any questions, concerns, just want to talk through any of these guidelines, or have additional ideas for how we can maintain the safest garden possible, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone/text at 919-616-6659 during the day or up to 10:00pm any evening.
Peace and comfort to you all,