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Sonoma County Farmers Provide Local Food Source During COVID-19 Pandemic and Shelter in Place Order

SANTA ROSA, CA— Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Shelter in Place Order in Sonoma County, local farmers and ranchers are still providing a stable food source for our community.
While most of our county’s 500,000 residents are sheltering in place until April 7, 2020, Sonoma County Farm Bureau members still have a job to do. Under the Sonoma County SIP, agriculture is recognized as an Essential Business so that food production, beverage cultivation, processing, and distribution can continue. Agricultural businesses are adhering to strict employee safety protocols put in place to help protect employees and their families from the COVID-19 virus.
Santa Rosa dairy farmer Doug Beretta said that because his seven employees live on the dairy his farm is able to still fully operate as normal.
“We are running full steam ahead to provide dairy products for our community,” Beretta said. “The milk trucks have been here at normal times and our production hasn’t slowed. Employee health and sanitation have always been a key component to our business and we are continuing that while heightening our efforts given the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
He said that the dairy has received information about safety protocols from agriculture organizations like the Western United Dairymen and Sonoma County Farm Bureau, are doing daily check-ins with employees, and are practicing the 6-foot rule, which he said is easy to do on a farm.
“Beretta Dairy is working hard to make sure healthy dairy products are available to our community.”
Loren Poncia of Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales raises grass-fed beef, lamb, and pork. He said his employees are following CDC guidelines and that although his physical office is closed, their ranch employees are still tending to his livestock herds. 
He said that although he is not able to sell his meat to restaurants that his online sales have really picked up and that he has the capability to sell and ship products directly to consumers’ homes.
“I want to encourage consumers to shop online and at local stores that support local producers,” Poncia said. “I hope the community can support local agriculture during the pandemic and realize how important our local agriculture industry is year-round.”
Poncia said he has been able to keep going despite the many challenges the COVID-19 Pandemic has created. 
“We have been able to keep going because of our partners like Oliver’s Market and Petaluma Market who are still taking our product, the Golden Gate Meat Company who has increased their processing, and Cotati Food Service who is helping us store meat,” Poncia said. “Everyone in the agriculture industry has really stepped up to help our community.”
Valley Ford sheep and cattle rancher Joe Pozzi said that he has made it a priority to review and implement all the safety measures to make sure his employees are protected and comfortable with their working roles on the ranch.
“Since we are out in a rural area we have an ample amount of space and feel good with current working conditions,” Pozzi said. “We aren’t taking this situation lightly and are following all necessary protocols to keep safe.”
He said that he is able to keep the ranch running during the COVID-19 Pandemic because of organizations like the Sonoma County Farm Bureau who advocated for agriculture to be listed as an Essential Business under the Shelter in Place Order. 
“The County recognized the importance of the local food that farmers provide our community and gave us the ability to take care of our ranches and livestock so that we, in turn, can continue to produce food.”
He said that regional demand for food supplies for the home has increased and therefore, he has been asked to increase production to meet that demand.  
“I hope this unfortunate pandemic helps people recognize the importance of food security and distributing food locally,” Pozzi said. “This situation brings awareness to how serious it is to have a strong local food supply and I know that farmers will continue to provide this for our community. We will all get through this together.” 
For more information contact Sonoma County Farm Bureau at 707-544-5575 or [email protected]
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