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For Westminster orchard, pick-your-own-strawberry season is unlike any before thanks to COVID-19

Pick-your-own-strawberry season will look different from previous seasons, at least in the case of one Carroll County orchard, which has made adjustments with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind.

Baugher’s Orchard in Westminster started its pick-your-own season on May 21, after the strawberries ripened.

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But, according to Cyndy Howes, market manager at Baugher’s Orchard, for the first time ever they have stopped transporting visitors to the strawberry field in their wagon.

“Usually when you come to Baugher’s, you hop on a wagon to the strawberry field from the market,” she said. “Of course, we can’t do that because we can’t sanitize the wagons every time. We’d have to sanitize them here, and then when they get out to the strawberry field and new people get on, we’d have to sanitize it again.”

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Instead, the orchard is having customers drive directly to the field. They no longer have scales in the field, so strawberries are purchased by the box in two-quart, four-quart and eight-quart sizes. Picking is $2 per person.

When pickers go out into field, they are required to wear a mask. The process will start with talking to the cashier to buy their box and pay the $2, then customers will go to the field attendant, who takes them out into the field.

While in the field, they can remove their masks if they are comfortable doing so, according to Howes. The field is 13 acres, so there is enough room for proper social distancing.

These changes haven’t drastically affected their number of patrons, according to Howes.

“There are very similar numbers for the pick-your-own field,” she said. “The only difference is it seems like instead of everybody showing up all at one time, it seems like a steady flow. We haven’t had long lines because we have lines on the ground out there, so when people are in line so they can social distance, but we really haven’t had any lines per se.”

On Sunday, Howes said, the orchard had about 900 patrons throughout the day, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., though the field closes to visitors who arrive after 5 p.m.

The only worry they really have is monitoring the crowds at the orchard, according to Howes.

“We’ve been really lucky the crowds have been steady instead of a big rush,” she said. “I pray we don’t get a big rush because I don’t know how to handle a big crowd. We’re staying right within our numbers, so it’s really good."

Howes said the orchard averages about 100 people an hour.

Baugher’s Orchards Market has made some changes as well, with only 10 people allowed at a time, and all must wear a mask. Patrons may also visit their website, baughers.com, and order from the market online for curbside pickup, according to Howes.

The orchard advises patrons to call their hotline number, 410-857-0111, before visiting to get updated information in case there is bad weather.

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