On April 8, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen officially recognized agricultural businesses as being essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think that that needed to happen because food is something that we need,” Albert Cramer of Big Marble Farms in Medicine Hat says.
Cramer says that he was a big part of convincing the government to keep agricultural businesses essential and that Big Marble Farms grows both vegetables and flowers that are delivered to big-box stores in the area.
“We’re growing foods that were deemed essential pretty quick,” Cramer says. “When COVID-19 initially started, everything was flying off the store shelves and everybody couldn't get enough, and now it definitely is different. We're not sure where it's going to go from here, as people's buying habits are different than they were probably when it first hit.”
One of the locations, Cramer says is 10 acres and has approximately 20 employees while the other location is 35 acres and has 195 employees. Cramer says that as the greenhouse is a pretty big place, so social distancing and extra sanitary procedures had to be implemented quickly. Most of the workers manning the locations are foreign and were already at work when the pandemic hit, Cramer says, so there was no concern about whether they would be able to come.
Since Big Marble Farms is able to stay open, Cramer states that the anxiety related to being able to grow and sell products with the help of workers has dissipated considerably. Cramer says that in going forward, however, there is a bit of a worry simply because of the buying habits people have and how those buying habits might develop as the situation continues. At the beginning of the pandemic, Cramer says, people were buying and grabbing as much as they could get even if it was too much, so that backed production up. The situation is keeping Big Marble Farms on their toes as far as how much product they have and need to move, Cramer says.
“I think what's going to come out of this is that people will look at food a little bit different and maybe also look at food security differently, as they have to be charge of their own food,” Cramer says.