COVID-19: Essential Services

Learn about businesses and organizations defined as providing “COVID-19 Essential Services” under Governor Baker’s March 23, 2020 Emergency Order, updated March 31, 2020

Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores, farmers markets and farm stands, nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, and agriculture supply stores, and other retail (including unattended and vending) that sells human food, animal/pet food and pet supply, and beverage products (including liquor stores), including retail customer support service and information technology support staff necessary for online orders, pickup and delivery.

From the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association, Inc.
March 31, 2020

Dear MNLA Members,

Today, Governor Baker reaffirmed horticulture’s value in Massachusetts, specifying that the operation of landscape, garden centers, nurseries and greenhouses are “essential services.” Information regarding this designation can be found here: COVID-19 Essential Services (or click here to go directly to the Food and Agriculture section). We urge our members to review this new guidance document, share it, and understand both the importance of and responsibility granted by this designation. “Based on the new guidance, any retailer must sell some edible plants or seeds for edible plants (anything from tomato plants to basil seeds). There is no requirement as to how much of this stock a retailer is required to have; but it must be one of the products you offer”.

As we all struggle with the realities of COVID-19, our Association has grappled with the question of how to proceed. Our customers and employees demand that we put their health and safety at the top of our priorities, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. So, while we are very pleased with the governor’s decision, we as an industry must remain committed to the policies outlined in my March 25th email to members. There cannot be any outliers. We encourage all of our members to adopt these policies. Perhaps other retail sectors may sell plant materials and other products with less stringent rules. We cannot police them; we can only do the right thing each and every day for our communities.
Adopt a remote sales method (whether by phone, web, email) removing any opportunity for close contact with the public.
Use an overabundance of caution and either make deliveries, “curbside” product drops in our facilities’ parking lots, or load materials directly into customers’ trunks or truck beds. DO NOT load anything into a vehicle’s passenger area.
Because the risk of transmission exists even in open air, CLOSE all areas of your business to public foot traffic with exception of parking lots and curb frontage. Even external portions of your retail operations must be closed.
Mandate that all employees maintain or exceed the CDC-recommended distance at all times, whether on a maintenance and installation job, caring for plants, loading and unloading plant materials, at registers, etc.
SANITIZE EVERYTHING USED BY EMPLOYEES. No tools, common work surfaces, or vehicles can be shared unless and until they are properly sanitized and businesses, as a best practice, should keep logs to ensure this happens.
Additionally, we encourage our members to do the following:

Any transportation used by members, whether on- or off-site will be limited to one person per vehicle and all vehicles must be sanitized after use.
All employees will be provided both guidance from the member business on what they can and cannot do on the job, and continue to be apprised of the latest state and federal guidelines.
Signage will be provided to also tell customers what they can and cannot do.
Whether through signage, social media, email newsletter, etc, our members will relay the steps they are taking to ensure public health and prevention to their customers.
We are grateful to those members who have already taken some or all of these extreme measures. We must make sure that our customers and employees understand that these policies are NOT OPTIONAL.

There have been articles in publications such as the New York Times predicting the rise of “victory gardens” in an effort to give people some sense of purpose, a way to take their minds off of the situation and improve mental and physical health, and also provide supplements to a shaky food system. Last Thursday, at Governor Baker’s press conference, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley encouraged children, parents, and educators to see the silver lining of the extended school closure and consider it an “amazing opportunity to think about project-based learning,” including activities such as starting a garden. We hope that, if families choose to engage in these activities, they visit our member locations where their health and safety will be paramount. We would prefer not to have this crisis hang over all of our lives, but we must do our best to ensure that a post-COVID-19 world is a place we want our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can survive and thrive in. A deep appreciation of horticulture and agriculture, and the relationship between mankind and the environment, learned at an early age can only benefit future generations.

We hope that everyone is practicing extreme social distancing, not just on the job but anywhere outside. We urge that, until the “all clear” is given by the governor, all of our members painstakingly adhere to this and other common sense practices. If you need further guidance, please consult with our excellent COVID-19 resource page. It’s updated regularly to reflect the latest news and understanding about the virus and its impact. If you have additional questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

We are all in this together, and MNLA is here to help. You can count on us.

Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association, Inc.
P.O. Box 387 | Conway, MA 01341 | 413.369.4731 |