GRACE — Justin Stoddard started making plans to host an on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinic for his staff back in early January, after seeing farm workers were among the high priority groups for receiving shots.
Stoddard called Southeastern Idaho Public Health and asked to be included on a list to have a clinic for his employees and kept in touch with public health officials throughout the ensuing months.
On March 26, public health officials showed up to his farm and administered 21 shots, covering more than half of his staff. His farm — which raises about 1,100 acres of seed potatoes, 2,700 acres of malt barley and 300 acres of seed canola — has 15 full-time employees and several seasonal workers who help during the busy seed potato shipping season from late February through early May. The health department is scheduled to return on April 23 to administer the second dose of the Moderna vaccine to his crew.
“We decided to go the clinic route so we could offer it to anybody who would like it and have it come on site instead of leaving the employees to have to go on a day off or on their own,” Stoddard said. “To be honest, it goes back to thinking of the health and safety of our employees. We try to do all we can to keep them healthy.”
Stoddard added that taking precautions to protect workers is just good business, as it keeps shipments steady. He emphasized that getting shots was optional for workers.
“Once we did announce it we had quite a few people who jumped on board right away,” Stoddard said.
Southeastern Idaho Public Health spokesperson Tracy McCulloch said some other large agricultural operations also requested that the department send strike teams for vaccination clinics. In her region, she said Gibbs Farms in Grace, Driscoll Farms in Power County and the Bayer and Itafos plants in Caribou County have also held employee vaccination clinics. McCulloch said other medical providers in the district’s territory have sent strike teams to an additional nine farms or agri-businesses.
Stoddard encourages additional farms to schedule clinics.
“We would highly recommend doing the clinic, especially where as part of agriculture everybody is part of the food chain,” Stoddard said. “...We truly trust the vaccines and are grateful they’re there for us to be able to access, and we’re grateful to the health department for coming down.”
Stoddard said a couple of workers got COVID-19 during the summer, but his farm was fortunate to avoid a significant outbreak.
In the American Falls area, several farms relied on Rockland Pharmacy to inoculate their workers. Kamren Koompin, with Koompin Farms, said his farm booked a time slot at the pharmacy, and about 90% of his staff elected to get the vaccine.
“Rockland Pharmacy, they’ve been a rock star,” Koompin said. “They don’t let those shots stick around in the freezer for very long.”