Search for Excellence in Crop Production

William Terry Kelley
Director & Tree Fruit Agent
North Carolina Cooperative Extension

Kelley, W.T.*1, , Blaedow, K.2,
1 Director & Tree Fruit Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Hendersonville, NC, 28792
2 Commercial Vegetable & Small Fruit Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Hendersonville, NC, 28792

The COVID pandemic brought many problems to the country including the farm community. The protection of our farm workers and their families quickly became an apparent need as food supplies were in short supply at times. Although NC Cooperative Extension partnered with state agencies later in the year to help with this crisis, Henderson County Cooperative Extension (HCCE) began this process two months earlier by securing PPE supplies from the state EMS and other resources. The Extension office became a central distribution point for PPE supplies including masks, cloth and disposable, hand sanitizer, bleach, disinfectant, face shields, tyvek suits and respirators. Along with the PPE supplies, Henderson County Cooperative Extension provided educational ma1terials in English and Spanish to workers and their families on how to best stop the spread of the virus and keep themselves protected. By the end of the season, Henderson County Cooperative Extension had distributed over $75,000.00 in PPE supplies to growers, farm workers and farm worker families through partner agencies in the LatinX community. Shipments were delivered to the office by US Mail, UPS and even by the National Guard. Much of the local farm economy is based on local retail fruit and vegetable roadside stands. These are critical to the $30 million apple industry in particular. By equipping these businesses with the required PPE it enabled them to stay open and keep their workers and customers safe from COVID infections. The distributions attracted the attention of local media outlets including the local newspaper and WLOS-TV in Asheville which brought favorable coverage to Cooperative Extension. The PPE program with HCCE brought growers to our office numerious times throughout the season to pick up PPE supplies. The program brought awareness of the importance of safe practices to curtail spread of the virus and also allowed essential farm businesses to stay open.