OGVG and Essex County work on COVID-19 response plan
By Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers
By Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers
Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) has partnered with Essex County officials to increase COVID-19 testing across the agri-food sector and develop a comprehensive response strategy to reduce the spread of infection.
“Now more than ever it is critical our leaders work together so we, as a region, can address this complicated issue,” says Gary McNamara, Warden of Essex County. “As we roll out wide-scale testing, we need to be ready to respond with isolation facilities and financial, medical and mental health supports for all agri-food employees. This only happens if we work together.”
In collaboration with community partners, OGVG is developing a multi-pronged response plan that addresses both short-, mid- and long-term priorities. The fundamentals of this plan include:
- Maintaining and enhancing all workplace prevention measures.
- Promoting access to increased testing for all agri-food employees and addressing employee concerns by providing culturally appropriate information.
- Supporting strict enforcement of regulations and public health policies at the individual, business, and community level.
- Supporting community-wide prevention and protection initiatives.
- Identifying ongoing risks and mobilizing a taskforce to address them.
“The Town of Kingsville remains committed to immediately working with all levels of government, health services, and our agri-partners to develop regulations across the varying levels of programs and services to ensure all workers are protected and public health protocols are being enforced,” says Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos. “It is vital that all of our voices continue to unite in the development of a comprehensive response that breaks down the barriers to help secure workers’ wellbeing. We join OGVG in strongly recommending growers implement strict workplace policies and make every effort to support a sector-wide comprehensive prevention and control strategy that will build confidence and support the overall health of our region.”
“We need all community partners to come together to reassure residents we are doing our part to solve this difficult problem,” says Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald. “Our number one priority is protecting the health and safety of our residents, including all agri-food employees who support both our vital farming communities and our ever important food supply.”
Since mid-March OGVG has provided their membership with the most up-to-date information on public health as well as health and safety protocols. This includes physical distancing where possible, the use of physical barriers, and increased sanitation and PPE use. OGVG also says they’ve supported operational changes, such as staggered shifts, amenity scheduling, additional on-farm services and establishing on-farm cohorts of employees with similar risk profiles based on exposure risk. These measures are in addition to a robust workplace communication strategy, screening and monitoring protocols for all employees and visitors, enabling access to testing and a comprehensive emergency response plan.
“We have advised our members to discuss the benefits and importance of testing with their workforce. We are also providing all members with the tools they need to help reduce fears and stigma associated with testing and positive results. OGVG is collaborating with community organizations to prepare and deliver these tools to our members and their employees,” says OGVG in a release. The organization applauds community leaders for coming together, as the success of their strategy depends on collaboration.
“We appreciate the thoughtfulness and foresight of our municipal leaders who have agreed to work together to address this complex issue that has a devastating impact on so many,” said Joe Sbrocchi, General Manager, OGVG. “We are committed to the health and safety of all agri-food workers and will continue to make all efforts to ensure they are protected.”
Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) represents approximately 200 farmers responsible for over 3,200 acres of fresh, nutritious, greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers across the province. With farmgate sales of $950 million in 2018, support for over 13,000 jobs, a contribution of $1.8 billion to the economy and a consistent track record of growth, the sector is a valuable economic driver for the province.