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COVID updates for farms - Preparedness Plans, On-site Food and Occupancy Guidelines for the Fall

Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, Food Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a serious public health crisis in Minnesota and the entire US. Industry specific guidance has been developed by the state agencies with the goal of reducing transmission of the COVID-19 virus and therefore new infections in the state. 

Remember, this is a respiratory illness and the most important route of transmission continues to be person-to-person via respiratory droplets. Research indicates that when people are close together, especially indoors, droplets that are expelled when we sneeze, cough or even breathe can easily spread the infectious viral particles and the illness. We are seeing many resurgent hot-spots as indoor dining opens, for example. So, creating a plan to reduce the transmission of the illness on our farms and businesses is an important step to protect our workers and the public. 

Information continues to emerge almost daily, and guidance may change as the rates of infection change, so the state agencies might need to "turn back the dial" from the current guidelines. This information is current as of 8/13/20. 

Updates that apply to many farms and farmers' markets

1.) Face Coverings

Workers must wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose in accordance with Executive Order 20-81 that went into effect July 24th. This Executive Order requires everyone—including workers—to wear a face covering in indoor businesses and indoor public spaces.  Additionally, the Executive Order requires workers to wear face coverings when working in outdoor settings in situations where social distancing (i.e., keeping at least 6 feet of physical distance from other individuals not in the same household) cannot be maintained. 

Customers must wear face coverings when indoors, but are not required to wear face coverings when in outdoor settings (unless your farm mandates this of them.)  Read more about the face covering requirements here in the Guidance for Food and Agriculture Businesses (face covering information is on page 10).

COVID preparedness plans

Beginning on June 29, 2020, all Critical Businesses must have developed and implemented a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan as  per Executive Order 20-74. This includes farms and farmers’ markets. 

All critical businesses including farms and farmers' markets that have employees, or those that interface with the public, including during sales, receiving deliveries etc must have a plan. Employees includes paid staff, volunteers, interns, or contractors.

2.) What COVID-19 guidance and rules does my farm need to follow?

This will depend on your operation and activities. You may need to follow guidance developed for more than one industry depending on your operation. The Stay Safe Guidance for Business and Industry page has all the Industry Specific Guidance. 

  • The guidance for Food and Agriculture businesses will apply to most farms. If you grow and sell crops via a fruit or vegetable farm and sell them to customers, this guidance would apply to you. 
  • If you sell concessions for on-site consumption, you will also need to follow the guidance for Restaurants and Bars (see below for more information on this guidance).
  • If your farm offers entertainment (like corn mazes, corn pit, petting zoos, hay rides intended for non-required movement of people, or basically any other non-critical activities), then your farm must follow the guidance for Recreational Entertainment. This includes a limit of 250 customers at one time on the premises of the farm, no matter the size or acreage of your venue, and you must monitor the entrance to ensure the numbers are within the 250. 
For more information on the guidances and which one your farm should follow and with questions about the specifics of each guidance document, contact  MNOSHA Workplace Safety Consultation at 651-284-5060 or or the Minnesota Department of Agriculture MDA COVID Question Line at or see the MDA COVID and agriculture website.

3.) Can we sell food and/or beverages from the farm this season for on-site consumption?

Yes, you can sell food and beverages for consumption on the farm, like an apple orchard, pumpkin patch or other farm selling donuts, hot dogs or other food for people to enjoy on the farm. When you sell food for on-site consumption, meaning customers eat the food there on the farm, your COVID-19 Preparedness Plan must follow state guidelines for Restaurant and Bar Businesses. In essence, when you start selling food for consumption on-site, you are now moving into the Restaurant and Bar area and you must follow the rules developed for these industries. 
  • Restaurant and Bar Guidelines are on the Stay Safe MN website
  • Occupancy restrictions: As per the Restaurant and Bar Guidance, you have two main options for dining set-ups and occupancy guidelines.
    • 1.) Designate eating area where people sit and eat the food. Cordon off this area. Keep fewer than 250 customers in this area at one time. 
    • 2.) Designate entire farm/market as eating area. People must sit and eat. You must monitor occupancy on farm, and keep fewer than 250 customers in entire farm at any given time, since you are designating entire farm as the eating area. 
  • There are other requirements that apply, like you must keep 6 feet between tables, follow cleaning and sanitation routines etc when you offer on-site consumption, employees wearing masks etc. Read more about these guidelines here on the MFMA site.

4.) New COVID resources

Assistance with COVID plans: For additional information or assistance in developing a plan, businesses can contact MNOSHA Workplace Safety Consultation at 651-284-5060 or

COVID-19 Guide from the Farmers Legal Action Group: See the guide here Information on the CARES act and loans and programs available to farmers 

Paycheck Protection Program information: See the MISA site here with webinars and more information on the program. 

Minnesota Farmers Market Association: Up-to-date summary of COVID regulations and guidance that pertain to farmers' markets

Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture: MISA COVID-19 page

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