Many businesses across the Central Coast, especially in the tourism and hospitality industries, are slowing or have shut down. But that isn’t the case for one the region’s most important sectors, agriculture. In fact, even with, or perhaps because of, COVID-19, this industry is thriving.
It’s the beginning of the harvesting season in the Salinas Valley. Farmworkers are in the fields picking broccoli and cauliflower, and any day now, they’ll start on the leafy greens. It’s almost business as usual for farmers in what many call “the salad bowl of the world," except for one key difference, the demand.
“They want more, more, more, because there's such a run on food in these stores all over the country,” said John D’Arrigo, chairman and CEO of Andy Boy. His company grows, packs and ships fruits, vegetables and wine grapes. They farm 27,000 crop acres extending from Moss Landing to King City.
Since the spread of COVID-19 across the United States, people have been panic buying. This means D’Arrigo’s sales department is getting a lot of calls. He does say his food service business has suffered greatly. That’s food ear-marked for restaurants. But that hasn’t really been a problem because all of that business is now going to the retail sector - the supermarkets.
He says they are taking the pandemic very seriously. Farmworkers are deemed essential during this time, meaning they can work despite shelter-in-place orders. But, D’Arrigo says they have to be symptom free in order to get on the buses to come to work. When they get to work, social distancing is being practiced in rest areas and extra hand washing stations have been set up. And when it comes to handling the food, D’Arrigo is quick to bring up the strict hygiene practices that have been in place for years.