BY ROBERT TOMCAVAGE
Local farmers are taking extra precautions to ensure customers are safe when they stop by to pick strawberries.
Regina LaCoe, co-owner of LaCoe’s Berry Nice Farm, is hopeful folks will flock to the fields when they open for picking.
“I think people are very eager to get out,” Regina LaCoe said. “We’ve had many positive responses on our Facebook page, and people are inquiring about when we’re going to open.”
While Regina and her husband, Dick, are eager to open the farm at 10038 Valley View Drive, Clarks Summit, to the public, they are encouraging only one or two family members to visit at a time.
“It will help us control the crowds better,” co-owner Dick LaCoe said.
Everyone must also wear a mask on the property if they are within 6 feet of anyone else, Dick LaCoe said.
Regina LaCoe suggests calling ahead to check on conditions and crowds before going to the farm.
Craig Pallman, co-owner of Pallman Farms, 1511 Summit Lake Road, Clarks Summit, said the welfare of staff and customers is the top priority, but he also wants everyone to have a pleasant experience.
Although customers will be required to wear masks when weighing and paying for strawberries inside, they will be free to roam outdoors.
“Our ultimate goal is to create an environment that is safe and enjoyable,” he said.
Their matted row system for picking strawberries plays to the farm’s advantage in terms of social distancing, Pallman said. Through the system, every other row is skipped.
We have two to four employees in the field assisting the customers on where to pick the berries, he said.
Pallman has also been pleased with the early looks of the plants.
“The crop looks really good,” he said. “It’s not stressed and we’re really optimistic Mother Nature will give us some nice weather to get people out to pick the crop.”
Pallman said the farm has expanded its hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout the facility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Owners of both farms said the start of strawberry picking has been slightly delayed this season due to unseasonable weather and coronavirus fears, but they’re hoping to be open by the end of the week.
“It’s been very unusual because of the weather and COVID-19 virus,” Regina LaCoe said. “We had 2 inches of snow on the berries in mid-May when they were starting to blossom.”
One of the main changes at Pallman’s will be a restriction on the number of people allowed to ride the wagon out to the fields.
Instead of having 30 to 35 people on the wagon at a time, it will be limited to 10 and masks will be mandatory, Pallman said.
Pallman doesn’t expect the decrease in riders to create any significant delays or problems.
“The wagons run continuously throughout the day, and most of the fields are within walking distance,” he said.
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