NSGA Member Update April 13, 2020
The NSGA reached out to OMAFRA for their interpretation of where sod farming fits in terms of essential workplaces. The OMAFRA response was based on the April 3, 2020 List of Essential Workplaces which can be found at this link: https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces.
In addition to the following OMAFRA response, the NSGA would like members to consider that in the current environment of COVID-19 and essential workplaces restrictions that public perceptions regarding conformity to regulations be taken into account. During this time, services such as those that provide for landscaping could be perceived by the public as unnecessary or frivolous. The NSGA encourages members to act and conduct themselves both on the farm and off in a manner which is perceived as irreproachable in terms of following current regulation. Following this advice will help to maintain the industry’s reputation when work life returns to normal.
According to the OMAFRA response, sod farming would fit into Agriculture and food production, specifically Section 24 of the List of Essential Workplaces:“Businesses that produce food and beverages, and agricultural products including plants, including by farming, harvesting, aquaculture, hunting and fishing.”
Regarding the operation of business and sales, the following was provided by OMAFRA:
Occupational Health & Safety Act & Public Health Unit Best Practices:
Businesses must operate in accordance with all applicable laws including the Occupational Health and Safety Act and subject to the advice and recommendations of public health officials, including their recommendations about the importance of physical distancing. Public Health Units provide advice on best practices in this manner.
Restricting access to businesses and providing alternative methods of sale:
The person responsible for a place of business that continues to operate and that engages in retail sales to the public, except for pharmacies and businesses that primarily sell food and beverages at retail, shall, to the fullest extent possible, restrict public access to the place of business by providing alternative methods of sale such as curb side pick-up or delivery.
In conclusion the NSGA recommends that, sod operations are at the discretion of each member in consideration of operating in a responsible manner that follows safe workplace practices and delivery of product to the public. The OMAFRA response is general and is open to each member to interpret. Information and regulation is fluid, growers need to stay informed by following information from their local Public Health Unit, www.ontario.ca and www.canada.ca.