Pick-your-own providers moot social distancing strategy for new season
Digital ticketing, one-way systems, and re-purposing surplus produce are just some of the measures that farm shops with pick-your-own areas have been discussing with a view to opening these attractions in early summer, in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
A meeting convened by the Farm Retail Association last week saw farm shop owners from across the UK explore the possibility of running their pick-your-own operations (PYOs) this year.
The FRA group – led by chairman Rob Copley (Farmer Copleys) – concluded that it would be unfeasible to begin offering this service until at least June, given the current social distancing and restrictions on movement put in place by the government.
In the current social distancing climate, the group drew up a series of measures for PYOs to consider – on the proviso that visits would be considered “essential” rather than family “leisure” trips.
Members of the discussion group suggested that visitor numbers could be controlled by running a ticketing system (using digital services like Digi-tickets and Merlin), a queuing system before entering, a one way rout through the picking areas and only allowing single customers or couples rather than groups.
Handwashing stations at the entrance and exits would be welcomed by customers and some retailers thought it would be useful to provide signage or leaflets about washing picked produce at home before consuming it.
John Sinclair of Craigies, near Ediburgh, said that all PYOs should also be planning how they might cope with unpicked produce – chiefly how to pick it and where it could be sold or used.
Speaking prior to the meeting he told FFD: “It would have a pretty major impact if we couldn’t offer our pick-your-own through the fruit season. Whether we’d manage to get enough staff to pick the fruit and then sell all the fruit ready-picked is a tough question. Around 80% of our fruit we sell pick your own.”
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