MASON COUNTY — The threat of COVID-19 and the governor’s stay-at-home order have changed the way many things will operate in the summer of 2020, but local farms are taking the necessary precautions to still offer many beloved fruits and agritourism opportunities.
Alicia Cook, of Cook Farm, was hoping for a good year at their u-pick strawberry farm in Point Pleasant. Their 2019 season was ruined when their cows got out in the fall of 2018 while away on vacation. The cows ate 13,000 strawberry plants and left them with nothing to harvest in 2019. Now the pandemic threatened to take away the 2020 season for the farm and many customers.
“We’ve been waiting to see,” Cook said. “Everyone has been asking us, but we don’t know because we don’t know what the guidelines are or are going to be at that time.”
Cook spoke to the local health departments about how the u-pick farm could operate under the new restrictions. Agriculture has been deemed essential in West Virginia, as well as many other states. Cook said the county health department gave her guidelines of how to keep the community safe while still picking strawberries.
Cook said there will be sinks for customers to wash their hands and people will be spaced at least six feet apart. Some of the rows of strawberries will be closed off so that spacing will be easier for customer.
Cook said they will also have curbside pick-up like they do most years for those who do not want to pick their own berries.
The strawberries at Cook Farm are June bearing and they expect them to begin at the end of May.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep the community safe,” Cook said.
Cook Farm can be reached on social media and is located at 7852 Ripley Road in Point Pleasant.
Another u-pick farm is in Leon and will have blueberries later in the summer. Four Seasons Farm Owner Martin Schaffer said he does not know how the u-pick operations will go for the blueberries. Schaffer said he still has time to decide and see what happens before the season starts.
Four Seasons Farm has other produce items throughout the seasons — including current items like kale, lentils, mushrooms, eggs and bread.
Schaffer said his current operations have not changed much due to the stay-at-home order because he harvests the produce when people come to pick it up or place their orders.
Four Season Farms is located at 8781 Evans Road (Rt. 87) in Leon.
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Kayla Hawthorne is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, ext. 1992.