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COVID 19: Updates on Strawberry and Blueberry Farmers

By Olivia Barnes

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is extending the state’s “Stay at Home” order through May 8. This year is a good year for strawberries and blueberries farmers say despite the pandemic of COVID-19.

Lem Barnes of New Dawn Organic Blueberries recently has implemented a blueberry picking machine to his operation. Lem says “he’s very fortunate to be able to control when and how he picks” with this blueberry harvester. The use of the machinery will not only pick the blueberries but will limit the number of people in the picking process, and the berries won’t come in contact with human hands. Barnes has also introduced more safety measures such as the use of gloves, facial covering, and social distancing allowing under ten people max in the field. Lem Barnes is very excited about this season and is eager to start harvesting in May.

David Gooden of Gooden Farms is continuing the “you pick” on his strawberry fields but is requiring social distancing of at least six feet from each picker. To ensure the safety of others, Gooden Farms is also providing hand sanitizer to customers. As far as his strawberry season, David Gooden says ‘his farm has been much busier this year as more people have been out at the farm wanting to just get out of the house.” Gooden says “This season has gone better than we expected and we’ve done very well.”

Matthew Strickland, Bladen County Row Crops and Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent, says “some are facing difficulties with packing facilities.” The social distancing, disinfecting, and sanitation practices are more strict with high contact areas.

Consumers can find locally grown strawberries and blueberries by looking for the “GOT TO BE NC” logo. This logo assures consumers that their product was grown and produced in North Carolina.

There was a “Got to be NC Festival” scheduled for May 15, 2020 – May 17, 2020. The festival is a three-day celebration of North Carolina held at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. Organizers of the event stated, “The safety of our visitors has always been our first priority. For that reason, the 2020 Got to Be NC Festival is canceled”.

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