In New York, effective at 8PM on Sunday, March 22, all non-essential businesses statewide will be closed. Governor Cuomo announced this in the “New York State on PAUSE" executive order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone.
At Square Roots we have a moral obligation to use the resources we have—skilled farmers and our farm-tech platform—to keep growing food, and to find ways to get that food to as many people as possible. But we obviously have to do that with the safety of people (our team and the wider community) as a priority, and specifically, we need to operate in line with the executive order.
As an agriculture and food production business growing crops for human consumption, certain Square Roots employees are designated as “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” by the US Department of Homeland Security as well as the NY State executive order. This designation allows those employees to move freely in order to get to work and perform our essential duties—growing food and distributing that food to people who need it.
Specifically, that means our Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers have a responsibility to “continue work during periods of community restriction, access management, social distancing, or closure orders/directives” since this is “crucial to community resilience and continuity of essential functions.” All Square Roots essential employees have been issued with emergency identification (physical and digital) that explains this designation. This ID will be willingly shown to any law enforcement officer if requested.
Meanwhile, per the executive order, all non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time. As a result, Square Roots is not holding any in-person farm tours or other events, internal or external for the foreseeable future. (We are working to set up a virtual farm tour soon—keep checking this blog for more info!). And, all our employees have been advised to adhere to state guidance around not attending any non-essential gatherings.
The executive order also states that any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced and that businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet. At Square Roots, we have implemented social distancing protocols on our farms in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Brooklyn, New York and in our offices, and any farmers or other staff not absolutely required to manage this temporary, slimmed-down operation have been asked to stay at home on full pay. We have also implemented transportation protocols to enforce social distancing for our emergency team members at all times.
Additionally, the executive order states that individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders. No Square Roots employee will find it “absolutely necessary” to take public transportation to report to work. We have provided other options—such as reimbursing anyone who is taking alternative modes of transportation, for example, using a car service.
Furthermore, the executive order states that sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving the home is in the best interest of their health. We developed a Coronavirus Safety Framework several weeks ago and, since then, any employee who has felt sick in any way has been asked to stay home, on full pay. Additionally, telehealth services are available through Square Roots’ benefits plans.
And finally, the executive order is advising people to use precautionary sanitizer practices such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes. Our usual operations already put food-safety and people-safety first, and include rigorous sanitation practices.
Well-run indoor farms like Square Roots bring heightened safety to food production and distribution, and we’ve now made the process even safer. We plan to continue operating our farms through this pandemic, in line with Governor Cuomo’s executive order, to bring as much food to as many people as possible, while maintaining safety for the community as a top priority.
Obviously, this situation is very fluid, and we are constantly assessing information to make the best decisions in line with our mission of “bringing local, real food to people in cities around the world by empowering next-gen leaders in urban farming.” If anything changes, as the full extent of the pandemic unfolds, we will do our best to provide transparency and clarity on this blog and through our social channels. But please feel free to email me directly if you have any questions or additional thoughts. ([email protected])
Square Roots CEO