As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact many large industries throughout the world, we wanted to see how it was impacting our local agriculture industry.
Mark Tadros, president of Aziz Farms, grows dates around the Coachella Valley. We first asked him how local agriculture as a whole is being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As far as the agricultural industry is concerned we are stable, we are farming, we are packing, we are shipping and we are trying to keep the grocery stores full and fill all the orders we can,” Tadros said.
Right now, the Coachella Valley is in-between seasons as they wrap up winter harvest. Tadros’ farm is getting ready to start pollinating dates but for his business and dealing with COVID-19 everything changes every day.
“We get orders, we get orders canceled, people adding orders, we get the ones that canceled calling back,” he said.
With many changes, overall he says the need for dates is actually growing.
“They’re really high in Zinc and vitamin B-6 which are all really good for your immune system and they last a really long time,” he said.
“Having that ability to store up and stock something that’s fresh and good for you has really kind of helped the business but then on the flip side these are just uncertain times and both myself and my employees are all really grateful to still be working,” he added.
In fact, he tells us, California dates are even being used to give to truck drivers to keep them healthy and boosting their energy while on the road.
“These truckers aren’t just delivering food, they are delivering non-perishables, toilet paper, masks to hospitals, ventilators so it’s really important we do everything we can as a community because again we are all in this together to make sure our truckers are well fed and have tons of energy and have as many nutrients as we can supply to them through the dates we grow here in the Coachella Valley,” he said.
But as far as the future of agriculture is concerned…“For us, it’s difficult to know what’s going to happen in the future. Every day is changing and everyone is being impacted differently,” Tadros said.
We also reached out to Ocean Mist Farms who grow winter vegetables here in the valley. President and CEO, Joe Pezzini said, of course, they are being impacted like everyone else. He echos what Tadros said, that every day is very uncertain. He said right now the huge demand for produce has actually backed off compared to what we saw happening a week ago after the shelter in place order.
He also told us that they are trying to space farmworkers out in the fields as best they can to practice social distancing. They sent letters to all of their workers in case they get stopped or questioned so people know that they are considered essential workers.
These are just a few of the many changes businesses in the agriculture industry are making in the wake of COVID-19.
“What we do is tremendously important now more than ever, but it has always been something that’s really important, feeding the nation,” Tadros said.