MeLeaf: A newsletter from the Horticulture Program

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Welcome to the MeLeaf 2.0 from the Horticulture Program!

Plants in a Greenhouse

For the time being, the Horticulture Program will not be conducting regular annual inspections of plants at your businesses, but we want to make sure that we stay connected with growers during this time. We know that many of you may have questions about pests, keeping your plants healthy and how to keep your employees and customers safe, we will try to answer some of those questions in this new version of the MeLeaf newsletter.

Some of you may remember the original MeLeaf which was a print newsletter that kept growers informed about activities of the Department of Agriculture, new pest and growing information and connected growers to one another through world wars, economic booms and busts and times of great change for the horticulture industry. The MeLeaf was unofficially put on the shelf around 2005 in favor of short, but sporadic, email news. Now the idea of dusting off the MeLeaf to increase communication between growers and the Department regularly with timely, relevant information, is needed once again.

We know that some of you may feel overwhelmed with the number of emails in your inbox, we certainly are! Our intention is to send this newsletter out weekly and our subject line will always start with the title MeLeaf. We want to keep this relevant to you, the grower, which means we need to hear from you! If there is information you want to see in this newsletter, please let us know by emailing Also, if you have specific questions about pests or other aspects of your business that the Horticulture Program Staff can assist with, please get in touch with us and we will do our best to answer your questions as best we can remotely. We look forward to continuing to serve your essential businesses through this time of social distancing.

Hort Program Staff,

Gary Fish, State Horticulturist
Sarah Scally, Assistant Horticulturist
Carole Neil, Assistant Horticulturist
Kathy Murray, IPM Specialist 
Karen Coluzzi, Pest Survey Coordinator 
Jen Lund, State Apiarist
Mary Yurlina, Hemp Inspector

Growing and selling plants during a pandemic? Here are some suggestions for keeping your customers and employees healthy.

Reduce customer activity in retail areas by taking phone or internet orders, or by offering delivery or curbside pickup. Use cashless transactions if possible*. Larger operations may want to use signage and markers directing customer traffic allowing physical distance among shoppers and workers. Research has shown coronaviruses can remain active for up to 3 hours in the air and up to 72 hours on some surfaces, especially smooth surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel.  Open windows and doors or use buildings’ ventilation systems to bring fresh air indoors. Regularly wipe down carts, door handles, counters, keypads, pens, and cash drawers with disinfectant. Require employees to wash hands often while at work and stay home if they are sick. Post signs reminding customers to touch only plants and pots they intend to purchase and stay home if they are sick. Helpful signs can be ordered from Maine Federation of Farmers Markets or UNH Extension has signs available to print yourself.

Regular Cleaning and Disinfecting is Critical. Ramp up routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and objects that are frequently touched including doorknobs and handles, light switches, faucet handles, hose nozzles, countertops, keyboards, card readers, cash registers, drawer handles. Clean first with regular cleaning products or soap and water. Then disinfect those high-touch areas with a disinfectant approved by EPA for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 (find a list of approved disinfectants here). Read the fine print on the product label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing and use. Many disinfectants are corrosive so be sure to use the right PPE. 

According to the FDA, there is no evidence that eating food contaminated with coronavirus particles can transmit the disease. However, it cannot be completely ruled out since fecal contamination has been reported as a suspected transmission route in a few cases. Studies on other respiratory viruses have demonstrated low survival rates on food and packaging materials during shipping or storage under a wide range of conditions. More research is needed to understand all possible mechanisms for disease transmission, and we are monitoring the scientific literature for new and relevant information.

The Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers (US CDC) provides business owners and operators with science-based information to guide your business during this outbreak.  Here are some additional resources:

 *Direct-market farms and farmers' markets can seek reimbursement for the purchase price of wireless Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) equipment to process USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) transactions. Apply for this program online.

Upcoming Webinars, Calls and Events for the Horticulture Industry

From Around the Web - Useful Websites and Other Resources