The Agricultural Service Laboratory has maintained operations during the entire COVID pandemic to support farmers in the food supply chain. Working split schedules on site ensured a safe distance among employees.
Normally we allow walk-in customers, but we switched to a drop box for sample drop-off back in March and we receive almost daily drop-offs from the public and researchers. Our incoming sample numbers have decreased only about 30% despite our primary source of samples, Extension Offices, being closed to the public. Extension staff and clients have found ways to work around closures to get their samples to us.
Because people are shopping online during COVID, our online soil kit sales for March through September have been 2.3 times the sales during same period in 2019, resulting in an increase of $15,000 in sales.
We have hosted two virtual tours during COVID. Normally we host about 15 tours per year, but since we are not allowing in-person tours, we used Zoom to host virtual tours of the facility for Staff Senate Leadership and for an AVS Applied Animal Nutrition course.
We received a mention from a YouTube influencer in July (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aK3I1XnRJaw). Since then we have received soil samples from 18 other states all over the country.
Two of our employees celebrated one-year anniversaries with the lab: Amanda Elgin, Program Assistant, joined the lab from in Sept 2019; Michael Atkins, Research Associate, joined the lab in July 2019.
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