March 31, 2020
Evening Edition

Dear MNLGA Members:

This e-mail is distributed to key contacts; please feel free to share with others in your office.

Thank you for all of you communication and feedback this past week. I do appreciate all of it as it helps me help other members. This e-blast is full of a bunch of new information. It includes:

  • Social media graphics for Garden Centers (or any business that finds it useful)
  • Member feedback on what they are doing to practice COVID-19 precautions
  • Reminder of our industry status as viewed by the Governor’s office

Let me start with the most important – our industry status. As of right now, which is March 31 st 7:30ish pm, the spectrum of green industry businesses in Maryland is deemed essential. This includes commercial nurseries and greenhouses, lawncare, landscape, arboriculture, garden centers, and farmer’s markets/stands. This means that legally, your business may be open, employees may work, you may have foot traffic, curbside pickup, and make deliveries. Our industry has been clearly asked, however, and I quote MDA:

  • “(we - MDA) Reached out to the governor's office for some guidance. Moving into this new phase of action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, all businesses should make an honest determination if their operation is essential to public health and safety. Businesses that are not directly linked to public health and safety should scale back their operations, if they have not done so already. Specifically, most retail businesses should immediately move to eliminate foot traffic, end curbside pick-up options and move to delivery only.”  

The MNLGA asks all of you to think about that as you go about your business, follow the rules, engage in common sense, and do your utmost to protect your employees and clients.  If we do not all follow the rules, if we engage in selfish behavior, and are disrespectful of the crisis we are in, then we are hurting each other . If you continue to engage in business – then you need to separate your employees – there should not be three and four workers shoulder-to-shoulder in the cab of a vehicle. Figure out how to get them to the job site safely and once on the site, keep them separated. My peers across the country are reporting on homeowners/consumer and employees reporting violations of COVID precautions. Please don’t be that business that harms the reputation of the rest of the industry.  (I’ll get off my soapbox now; I gather if you’re a member of MNLGA, you’re in the pool of businesses giving credit, not discredit, to the industry. Thank you.)

Let me share feedback from some of your industry peers about how they are managing with the Governor’s guidance:

  • Garden Center – we are taking appointments and allowing one customer in the store at a time. One staff member, practicing social distancing, assists the customer. We encourage the customers to not come out with us as their sole travel destination, rather, add a visit to us, with their regular visit to the grocery store. Other COVDI-19 sanitation procedures in place, as well.
  • Garden Center – our yard is open to landscapers whose orders are pulled and set aside; we are screening and limiting the number of homeowners on the property at all times. Landscapers have minimal to no physical contact with any other person. Orders are prepaid.
  • Garden Center – we are taking telephone and online orders and preparing them for curbside pick or delivery. Retail store is closed to foot traffic.
  • Garden Center – we Facetime with customers and walk the store and show them desired product. An employee will pull the order and customer will pick up curbside or we will deliver.
  • Garden Centers in general – the overwhelming number of garden centers who have contacted me say their customers are encouraging them to remain open. This is a very good sign. Consider full switch to online and phone orders with delivery option to remove foot traffic as requested by the Governor.
  •  Garden Center – Yesterday (Monday, March 30 – before the stay-at-home-order went into effect) we were so busy we could barely keep up, today it’s a ghost town (retail). Some people care less about COVID, others are scared out of their minds. We’ve seen many selfless, gracious, hard-working people that want to make something of it and continue. We’ve also seen some of the most selfish, self-centered, all about me, care less about the business type perspectives. They’re waiting for someone else to make the decision, so they don’t have to work. Making a decision to protect your health and stop working is one thing – completely respectable. Dropping work like a hot potato and expecting someone else to pick it up, with no notice, that’s something else. [Vanessa’s note – anyone else seeing employees opting for unemployment? I know people have some tough decisions to make.]
  • Greenhouse Grower – we deliver within and out of state. We’ve changed deliveries to be only early morning. We leave the pallets behind with the sales order and our drivers have no contact with other persons.  
  • Landscape – our #1 priority is the safety of our employees and clients. Only the foreman reports to our home office. He loads his truck, with assistance as needed, with social distancing invoked. Other crew members report directly to jobsite. We reimburse those employees for their mileage. All employees are given the option to continue working or go on unemployment, with very high hope that we are able to give those who opt for unemployment their job back when this crisis is over. Everything at the home office and on job sites is continually/routinely cleaned i.e. door handles, tools and equipment, steering wheels, etc. Our employees are not to engage with clients and their families. We contact clients and are assured by them if they want us to continue with their services. We tell clients that our employees will not be engaging with them, as they all practice social distancing. Our clients are asking us to keep working, to provide that aesthetic and psychological place of calm and peace in an otherwise chaotic and uncertain time. Most of them are working from home now and are very appreciative of the work we are able to do for them.

While we are on the topic of landscape, here is updated Landscape Operational Guidance from NALP .

Revised employee “Authorization to Travel” letter (sent out earlier today; this is a redo for those that missed it). This includes additional info suggested by the Governor's office. Template provided by UMD Ag Law Initiative, modified by me a bit. Feel free to modify as you see fit.

Back to Garden Centers – On the MNLGA website, there are now posted a variety of graphics for your use in social media campaigns.  I expect more to be posted sometime on Wednesday. The intent is for you to use the graphics as you see fit. You will need to personalize them to include your own center’s information and I would urge you to indicate how you are conducting business right now – i.e. phone and online orders with delivery, when you include your business information.  You will find these graphics under the “Business to Consumer Outreach Resources ” section of the COVID-19 resources page.  I’ve also had posted the “Embrace Your Space” campaign offered by my peer in Texas. You are free and welcome to use that information.

Lastly, I know many of you are negotiating all the options with CARES, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), MD Unemployment Insurance programs, and MD SBA Relief Grant and Loan Funds. Links to FAQs and program details are on the MNLGA COVID-19 resources page. I’ve also had Chelsea post summaries authored by legal firm Miles and Stockbridge, to try to provide easier-to-digest information. These resources are found right on that firm's website. If you come across any resources that make all this information easier to digest and get through, please forward to me to share with the rest of the members. We are all in this together. 

I urge you all to stay well, be smart, and support each other. Stay in touch with me and I’ll do my best to help you and keep communication and information flowing. 

We will get through this!  

Keep checking the MNLGA website for many COVID-19 resources; Chelsea updates often.

Also, I'm reiterating that last week the MNLGA board paused all membership dues until April 1 of next year. As well, non-members are invited to join with a complimentary membership through the end of 2020. The purpose of this is to enable us to get information out to as many businesses as possible, as efficiently as possible. Pass the word to your non-member colleagues. Prospective members go to , click the "join here" button and select membership type 2020-Comp. Easy to do!

Blood banks across the area are in need. If you are able to give blood, please consider visiting the Red Cross. I think it would be wise to make an appointment rather than arrive unexpectedly.  Visit Greater Chesapeake Region Red Cross to find a donation center near you.

Please keep me informed of what is going on with your business. If I know what is going on, I may be a better resource to you and to other members as we navigate together this uncharted territory. Feel free to email me at Vanessa .

Vanessa A. Finney
Executive Director, MNLGA