By Clint Thompson
Jeff Cook, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Peach and Taylor counties, says the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced peach producers and farming operations to take extra precautions when protecting their crews from becoming sick.
“They have separate crews so they’re trying to keep the crews a little more separated this year. But the biggest thing that they’ve all said to me is they’re trying to keep the crews away from the outside world,” Cook said.
Farmers limit the workers to the amount of time they’re exposed to other people that are not part of their specific crew.
“They’re trying to help reduce the amount of time they’re having to spend at the store or at the bank. Once a week they carry them to the bank and once a week they carry them to the grocery store,” Cook said. “To the farmer, if their crews get sick and they can’t pick peaches, then we’re in big trouble.”
Cook said some peach workers have been in place since February when farms started the peach pruning peach process. The second crews are now in place to help thin the peaches since a lot more people and hands are required. These peach crews also include those who’ll work in the packing sheds and help harvest once trees are ready.
Cook estimates that there are 10 to 12 workers in one crew, though, multiple crews may ride the same bus to a particular orchard. The workers are not close together out in the fields. Each one has a specific tree they work on, and trees are normally spaced 16 feet apart.
“When they are thinning, the ride there is as close as they are going to get to each other. When they’re out in the field, they’re not really near each other,” Cook said.