MELeaf: A Newsletter from the Horticulture Program, April 21, 2020

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MELeaf: A Newsletter from the Horticulture Program, April 21, 2020

Collect Income not Germs: Growers Share their Tips for Safe Selling

Money changes many hands many times. It gets dirty.  Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that can be spread through the air from sneezing or coughing, close personal contact such as shaking hands, and touching an object with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. For these reasons, you’ll want to take reasonable steps to provide a hygienic and healthy retail setting for customers and staff throughout your business, including at the cash register. Here are some ideas for safely handling payments shared by experienced New England growers:

  • Provide advance payment options. Encourage customers to place advance orders by credit card over the phone or via on-line sales. Some growers have found that customers appreciate curbside pick-up. Offer customers a choice of pre-set pickup times. Consider adding a small fee if extra staff are needed to provide curbside service.
  • Limit physical payment transactions. Encourage customers to use credit or debit cards at point of sale. US Chamber of Commerce offers some guidance in cashless transaction systems and how to set up your business to accept credit cards.
  • Dedicate one staff member to handle all payment transactions for a block of time rather than having multiple staff members roving in and out of the cashier area. Train cashier staff to sanitize hands on a set schedule, avoid touching face, and stay behind a plexiglas shield or 6’ away from customers and other staff. If accepting cash, consider dedicating a separate station to cash-only sales 
  • Set prices to even-dollar amounts to reduce the need for making change. Consider selling pre-selected packages of popular vegetable seedlings or bedding plant packs, priced in multiples of $5, $10 or $20. If the products are subject to Maine sales tax, be sure to include the tax in the sale price and indicate such on the receipt provided to the customer.
  • Establish a workable hygiene system for your operation. Set clear instructions and train staff to thoroughly wash hands or use hand sanitizer at a set frequency. Consider providing gloves and training in their proper use, as a reminder of the importance of good hygiene practices during and after each transaction. Provide staff with a face mask. Wipe down the pin-pad, pen, and counter after each transaction. Provide hand sanitizer for customers.
  • Get physical. Use barriers, markings and signage to provide 6’ of physical distance among customers and staff. Install Plexiglas shields at the cash register or use chalk, tape or other ways to support physical distancing (at least 6’) between staff and customer. Similarly, use markings, signage or barriers such as hay bales, tables, flagging, caution tape or rope barriers to direct foot traffic that permits physical distance between and among customers and staff. Create a one-way traffic flow with separate entrance and exit so that incoming customers don’t come face to face with those exiting.


What You Need to Know About Online Plant Sales to Out-of -State Locations

In these times of social distancing and online shopping, many retailers of plant material are considering or have started to sell product online. Selling online can help reach local clientele while reducing crowded sales areas and promote prepayment, delivery or curbside pickup of orders. However, if you offer the option of shipping plant material, you may start to notice customers hailing from a wider range of geographical areas. When shipping plant material, it is critical that you be aware of and follow state, federal, and international plant protection regulations.

Every state has its own quarantines and plant regulations in place to protect its local agricultural and natural resources from harmful insects, diseases and plants. Just as out of state suppliers of plant material need to follow Maine’s regulations when shipping into the state, Maine plant retailers are required to follow regulations of other states when exporting. Requirements are based on the type of plant material, the location where the plants were grown and the destination of the shipment. Summary of regulations for shipping Maine origin plant material to other states

Does my license to sell plants cover out of state shipments? No, the license allows you to sell plants in-state only. It does not certify your plants to move to other states. All plants shipped from Maine must be accompanied by an inspection (Nursery Stock) certificate. This is a free document issued by the Division of Animal and Plant Health stating that the nursery or premises that the plants are from has been inspected and found to be free from regulated pests. It also addresses any regulations that require additional certification for specific pests. Businesses regularly shipping plant material will be asked to sign a compliance agreement allowing them to reprint the nursery stock certificate. 

If you receive an order that needs to be shipped internationally, a phytosanitary certificate may be required based on the regulations of the destination country. This certificate can be issued by Horticulture Program staff using a United States Department of Agriculture process that is agreed upon with the foreign country. There are fees associated with phytosanitary certificates based on the value of each shipment being certified.

Due to the variety of regulations for different states and countries, it’s always a good idea to do your research ahead of time and clarify on your website where you are able to ship plants. For example, if you are not willing to pursue certification for international orders, then specifically state that you only ship domestically, to specific states, or within the state of Maine. If you plan to ship plants out of state, please contact the Horticulture Program to obtain the necessary certifications. You will be put in touch with the inspector who covers your area to walk you through the process.

Webinar: The On-Ramp to Online Sales - Getting ready to open your online store

Thursday, April 23, 2020 – 6:30 Eastern Time

Join Linzy Witherspoon of Farmhand Automation, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry, and MOFGA for a session on The On-Ramp to Online Sales. In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, many of Maine’s farmers are looking to shift ordering online. In this session we’ll share what pieces you’ll need to get an online ordering platform up and running quickly, and we’ll talk about some of the different options available. Maine DACF staff will share where you can find 1-on-1 technical assistance to help get you set up online, including Linzy’s team of pro bono tech volunteers. MOFGA staff will share the online sales platform comparison they’ve prepared. Please bring your questions and share your experiences making online stores work for you.

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