Garden centers, greenhouses and nurseries declared essential by Governor Baker

To all MFGA members, Greenhouse/Garden Center Industry,

We thank Governor Baker and his Administration for clearly designating that the services our garden centers, greenhouses and nurseries provide are “essential” and of benefit to our communities in the midst of the current crisis. On the retail end, any retail operation is required to sell either food plants or seeds for edible plants (tomato plants, lettuce seeds, herbs in either plant or seed form). There is no requirement for the quantity of this kind of stock.

Make no mistake…this “essential” status comes with a great responsibility to do the right thing; we should follow the guidelines as outlined in our previous MFGA email sent yesterday, March 30th. As as reminder, our members, whether they are operating a retail location, nursery, greenhouse, wholesale or re-wholesale facility, should:

  • Adopt a remote sales method (whether by phone, web, email) removing any opportunity for close contact with the public
  • Use an overabundance of caution and either make “curbside” product drops in their facilities’ parking lots or load materials directly into customers’ trunks or truck beds (similar to, and possibly safer than, the current model employed by restaurants serving their patrons “to go”)…again, the point is ZERO close contact with the public. NO ONE CAN LOAD DIRECTLY INTO A VEHICLE’S CAB OR PASSENGER AREA. If the trunk is full, the customer will have to load it themselves.
  • Because the risk of transmission exists even in open air, close even the external portions of our retail operations to customer foot traffic. We’ve all seen people milling about and then finding themselves in front of the same plant. It sounds funny, but it’s deadly serious. All aspects of the members’ premises, with the exception of parking lots or curb frontage, would be off-limits to foot traffic, and signage would be posted reaffirming this.
  • Minimize (if possible, eliminate) cash transactions. If more than one person is working at the sales register, the manager should designate one person to handle money and another to handle produce/product. Businesses can round their prices to the nearest dollar so they can reduce the acceptance of coins, and minimize the handling of change. Wipe down credit card readers and POS equipment periodically and between transactions. Online payment application platforms used on smartphones, such as Venmo, Square or PayPal, are a viable option to facilitate transactions for on-site pick-ups and deliveries.
  • Mandate that all employees maintain the CDC-recommended distance at all times, whether caring for plants, loading and unloading plant materials, at registers, etc.   ZERO close contact.
  • Sanitize all tools and/or common work surfaces after every use. Nothing should be shared use unless there is an accurate record that it was cleaned. You use something. You clean it. You move on.
  • Any transportation used by members, whether on- or off-site will be limited to one-person per vehicle. Of course, those vehicles would be sanitized after every use.
  • All employees will be provided both guidance from the member business on what they can and cannot do on the job, and continue to be apprised of the latest state and federal guidelines
  • Whether through signage, social media, email newsletter, etc, our members will relay the steps they are taking to ensure public health and prevention to their customers

We are grateful to those members who have already taken some or all of these extreme measures. We must make sure that our customers and employees understand that these policies, when implemented, should NOT BE OPTIONAL.

Please continue to encourage social distancing, not just on the job but anywhere outside. If you have any questions, require any kind of guidance or technical assistance, please let the MFGA know. Since this is an order of the Governor, he has the authority to unilaterally reverse this designation if he feels there is a problem in our sector. Also, if our members are not following best practices, they still open themselves up to potential conflicts with municipalities who have broad authority. Let’s make sure we continue to earn the respect of our communities by keeping them safe and plying our trade responsibly.

Provided by Jason Wentworth- MFGA Legislative Advocate and
MFGA Executive Board

Massachusetts Flower Growers' Association