An Update From Christina On Our COVID Protocols

Sep 23, 2020

An Update From Christina On Our COVID Protocols

Hey there,

As promised, I’m writing with another Team Farmgirl update, and this one is a bit heavier than usual which feels pretty on brand for 2020 in general though, right? I’m looking forward to the day when one of these updates will start with something like “wow - how amazing has this year been?!” Something tells me we’re a ways off from that - but I’m confident we’ll get there (someday). 

There’s this quote from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It goes “there are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” This year is definitely in the former category. There have been so many questions. When the pandemic kicked off back in March, it started with - what do we do now? Or more like - how can I keep this business going? With the forced closure of our SF facility due to the shelter-in-place mandate, finding a new home for Farmgirl was something I needed to figure out immediately. And by immediately, I mean in a day or two, which was long before my head could stop spinning from trying to figure out the logistics of closing a facility and all that came with that. Like furloughing 95% of our team, figuring out how to fulfill all the orders already placed with no facility to do that fulfilling in, and adjusting/halting a supply chain made up of entirely perishable product that was already en route to us. But, as it turns out trying to figure out if we could survive the pandemic was just the beginning. There was still the question of how we could do what we needed to do (that is, make and ship bouquets) safely in the middle of a pandemic that, even by April, was lasting much longer than most of us had ever anticipated. 

And so my incredible team got to work. I’ve always known I’ve had a special group at Farmgirl, but this year has solidified my belief that they’re all some of the very best. Many volunteered to come back to work as soon as we were able to, and at a time when fear about COVID was at an all-time intense level. You remember six months ago when we all looked at every single person around us like they were Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown - and that cloud of dirt around him was coronavirus hovering around everyone? Even in the middle of that our team members came back and worked harder than I’ve ever seen a team work to change just about everything about the way we did business. And they did it at breakneck speed to make sure we were prepared for our biggest holiday here at Farmgirl: Mother’s Day. All while working six feet apart - with masks - to boot.

And, just like these team members were really showing up, so were all of you. All of your incredibly kind words and orders - you all were still ordering SO MANY flowers! -  and your incredible patience with us as we worked out the kinks of our new model was humbling. And, because of your help and support - we did it! We opened four more distribution and fulfillment centers in time for the big day and pulled off our most successful Mother’s Day to date.

But then - more big questions. In May and early June, one of our shipping partners had some logistical issues that caused over a million dollars of shipments to be delayed in a span of about a month. The delays were, like everything this year, COVID-related, and because of pandemic conditions these delays weren’t covered by that partner, so we had to take that $1M+ loss on ourselves (on top of re-shipping all of the affected orders). I think that would be a hit for any company, but for a bootstrapped one like us, it was devastating. How could we continue operating and minimize (or eliminate) the risk of it happening again? We decided the only way was to fast-track our plans to open a new center in Miami, which for reasons that would require another 5000 words to explain (and this is already tl;dr status), would help to prevent this sort of massive delay in the future. Which brought us to the next question - how do you open a new distribution all the way across the country in the middle of a pandemic? 

Once again, my team got to work. It was, par for the course for Farmgirl, the scrappy way. I’ve talked about this many times before, but my team doesn’t look like a traditional ecommerce company. And I don’t look like a typical CEO. For the most part, we’re all unpedigreed (and I mean that in the best possible way). We’re former nannies and store managers and salespeople who have an unflappable ability to solve just about any problem, and in a micro-fraction of the time it might take other companies. We’re the look and leap type and can adapt on a dime, which was the how that was making Miami work. But in the middle of unloading supply deliveries one box at a time (the pallet jacks hadn’t arrived yet) and building too many metro racks, I got COVID-19.

It started how a cold or flu might start - tiredness, body aches, general feeling of ickiness. I remember thinking that it couldn’t be COVID. I’d been “careful” - wearing a mask, socially distancing, regularly washing my hands, and using what seemed like gallons of sanitizer daily. I only left my house for work (and worked remotely whenever possible), and even entirely skipped the store and got groceries delivered instead. I also very rarely get sick. There was just no way. But I kept feeling worse, so I took two tests (just to be sure) and, after an initial false negative (be careful of mail order tests), sure enough - the doctor-administered test came back positive. 

The six weeks that followed were, to put it succinctly, scary. Growing up on a farm I was very much of a “a little dirt don’t hurt” mentality. I figured (like so many) that this would be like a bad cold and that my body like it had time and time before, would fight it off after a few days. I was healthy and young(ish) - this wouldn’t (couldn’t) be a big deal. But I was wrong. On my worst days, I felt like I had a giant hot stone burning in my chest and felt like I’d been hit by a truck. No, make that a fleet of semis. I have two short sets of stairs in my apartment that get you from the kitchen/living room to the bedroom with a small landing in between, and I couldn’t make it to that landing before needing to sit down, completely winded. My brain felt foggy. There were some days when I had so little energy and was so incredibly dizzy that I had to crawl to get to the bathroom. I ended up putting a chair in my shower after I passed out in it one night. It sounds melodramatic looking back now, but there was a moment when the furnaces that my chest and head seemed to have turned into made me wonder if I would make it through the night. So I taped my will to my wall and let two people close to me know where they could find it (and keys to my house) in case the worst happened. I know it sounds a bit soapy, but at two o’clock in the morning when your body feels different than it’s ever felt before, and your phone is pinging regularly with the climbing numbers of people who aren’t making it to the other side of COVID, it seemed completely rational. 

I think before I actually got COVID, it was all too easy to keep the idea of it in the confines of those Google News Alerts that I got on my phone multiple times a day. It was more of an idea of a virus than an actual virus, and the threat, while it was very real for my business, seemed so distant for me personally. I also figured since I was doing all the recommended things to prevent it, and how bulletproof my immune system has always seemed to be before this, the chances were so slim that I would actually get it. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. And while I’m grateful and fortunate to have recovered eventually (something that we cannot say for over 200,000 Americans right now), I can say with certainty that my thinking has changed, and dramatically.

Personally, I also still have a few lasting effects of the virus. Memory is the biggest one. Sometimes (more often than I’d like) it’s hard to find a word I’m looking for. And for someone who has always talked on pace with an Amy Sherman Palladino character (and especially as a business owner), it’s been an adjustment. I also still haven’t recovered my full sense of smell, which is weirder than a huge challenge. But professionally? Getting sick really changed the way I thought about our team and the pandemic. From prevention to testing to what to do if/when someone gets sick, my team and I have tailored our practices and procedures to ensure we keep everyone as healthy as possible. And, in the event someone does become sick, we have the systems in place to protect the rest of the team and can ensure the only thing that team member has to worry about is getting better (not their job). In case you want to know more, I’ve outlined what we’re doing here at Farmgirl during the COVID-19 pandemic below:


  • PPE and temperature. All Farmgirl team members are required to wear face coverings at work and undergo daily temperature checks.
  • Bimonthly testing. We’ve contracted with a California company that performs bi-monthly, on-site COVID-19 testing for our team members in both California and Florida. We have mail-in options for our off-site and remote team members as well. This is a big undertaking, both logistically and financially for our company, but we think it’s the right thing to do to ensure the safety of our team.
  • Weekly facility cleans. In addition to daily cleaning and fully stocked sanitizing stations throughout our operations floor, we also contract for weekly deep cleaning procedures at all Farmgirl facilities.
  • New operations layout. We’ve changed our operations setup to allow for a minimum of six feet of distance between all operations personnel. 
  • Operations staff only. We’ve reduced the number of people working on-site to operations only. Our management team is distributed among our operation centers and all departments that can work remotely are doing so.
  • Staggered shifts. In an additional effort to reduce the number of people on-site at one time and minimize exposure risk, we’ve completely restructured our operational schedules, adding shifts with no time overlap between crews.

Safety is my top priority here at Farmgirl and with these extra steps, my team and I are hoping to keep all of Team Farmgirl as safe and as healthy as possible during this time. And in case one of our team members is sick, we’ve worked to ensure they aren’t worried about whether or not they have sick time or about a paycheck. Because, from very personal experience, I want them to focus on getting better, not all the other noise that can prevent that from happening. In a year of a lot of questions, how they’re going to make a living while they’re sick is not something I want our team to have to answer. 

So there it is. Another too-long update about the past few months that I am grateful I’m here to be able to share with you all. I’m thoroughly convinced that when we all make it through this crazy hard year, we’ll be able to do just about anything. And that, and all of the love you’ve all shown us during this time, are both things I’m so grateful for this year. 

Stay safe out there.





« Newer  |  Older »
View all posts