Leading the way in health and safety during COVID-19
Pomona Farming is prioritizing health, safety and wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, we were so far ahead of the game that when the California Department of Health issued emergency rules for employees statewide, it was simply a matter of putting these new protocols into our official safety policies because they had already been implemented.
Mandatory face masks, sanitization of facilities and heavy equipment, social distancing and regular self-checks are important, but these precautions are really only the beginning.
Our Employees are ESSENTIAL
Pomona Farming employs agricultural workers across California’s Central Valley and on Hawai’i’s island of Maui. Among its many duties and responsibilities are planting, harvesting, hulling (by hand and machine) as well as packaging, barcoding, tracking, shipping and delivering. We hire locally in every community we are in by way of practice and have always embraced our employees as essential. Pomona Farming is ultimately, at its core, the community of people who come to work every day and their families who support them in doing so.
Safety Precautions and Protocols Save Lives
Along with some of the more obvious approaches to preventing the spread of the coronavirus, such as providing masks for employees and keeping workers as far apart as possible, we go a step beyond. We provide quality PPE to every employee along with the necessary safety training to maximize its effectiveness. Pomona Farming also encourages self-assessment and educates workers about COVID-19 symptoms. Our leadership is also on call at all times to offer support and assistance.
Additionally, we implemented an equipment management plan to ensure that each tractor or truck is assigned to a single employee for a shift – no sharing – and fully sanitized between uses. We stagger breaks and provide additional education and information to our employees reflecting the latest in COVID-19 developments and recommendations on such topics as effective social distancing practices and others to minimize risk of contagion or transmission.
Our team has also been working with the local health departments to address the challenges associated with our heavy equipment during harvest. Because most of our machinery features closed cabs with air conditioning, we installed HEPA filtration in all of our tractors, trucks, hullers and harvesters.
Holistic Approach to Care
Working in agriculture and food production is more than a job, it is a lifestyle. This means that at Pomona Farming, we believe it is crucial to look beyond our employees’ physical well-being in the field, to their emotional and mental health needs, to their families at home.
With stress, uncertainty and anxiety being compounded by the isolation and upheaval in our daily routines, we provide counseling services to any employee or member of their family who feels they would benefit from that level of support.
Because our people often work irregular hours to avoid the peak temperatures during the day, appropriate childcare is often challenging to find. We sought out and secured it for our team members with little ones at home. Additionally, it goes without saying that the majority of our farmworkers live in some of the most remote areas of the state, and these rural areas have been more intensely impacted by lockdowns and school closures.
We immediately put a plan into action to provide reliable internet access for these employees so that their children could attend their virtual classes and their families could remain connected to the world beyond. Additionally, when our employees are working per diem far from home, we don’t send them home, we put them up in hotel rooms to minimize travel and exposure.
The economic fallout from the pandemic has hit nearly every industry and community to some degree – this is particularly true in agriculture. We offer ongoing support to our employees in the way of food gift cards as well as providing monetary, resource and food product donations to our communities at large.
Doing the Right Thing
At Pomona Farming, we believe that taking care of our workers is also good for our partners and customers, and the success of the company – but it’s even more than that, it’s the right thing to do and it’s the heart of our mission and philosophy.