Hand sanitizer, face masks distributed free to farmers

Cattaraugus farmer Jim Frentz (center) receives face masks from Dick Rivers, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cattaraugus County Monday at a distribution to farmers at the Ellicottville Town Center. At right, Tim Bigham of the Cattaraugus County Farm Bureau hold hand sanitizer that was also given away free to farmers.

ELLICOTTVILLE — Pickup trucks, SUVs and sedans pulled into the parking lot at the Ellicottville Town Center beginning Monday morning.

They were there for a distribution of hand sanitizer and face masks for farmers, their families and employees by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cattaraugus County, Farm Bureau and the Soil and Water Conservation District.

The distribution continues from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. today. It is meant to help farm workers protect themselves and help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Cooperative Extension groups in Cattaraugus, Allegany and Chautauqua counties received shipments of the sometimes hard-to-find items from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

They put the word out late last week through the news media and Facebook to let farmers know the hand sanitizer and face masks had been received and were being distributed this week to help farmers fight COVID-19.

“We’ve got 100 gallons of hand sanitizer and 2,500 face masks,” said Dick Rivers, executive director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension. “We don’t know how long they are going to last. ... We may be able to get more.”

Rivers and Tim Bigham of the Cattaraugus County Farm Bureau wore face masks as they walked out to a vehicle in the parking lot to ask how many employees and family members they had.

With the order in hand, they walked back into the Town Center, retrieved a gallon of hand sanitizer and a handful of cloth face masks and came back to the vehicle.

Fifteen farmers had stopped by in the first 1½ hours the Cattaraugus County site was open on Monday.

“We’ll be giving it out as long as it lasts,” Rivers said.

The masks will come in handy for employees and the hand sanitizer is a good backup for clean hands when soap and water isn’t available, which can be almost anywhere on a farm, Bigham said.

“We’re distributing it on the basis of how many workers will need it,” he added.

If are any supplies remaining after today’s distribution in the parking lot, Cooperative Extension officials will find alternate means to see the supplies get to farmers, Rivers said.

Don’t forget to maintain social distancing and wear face covering when coming to the Town Center on Parkside Drive in Ellicottville. Call if you have a question at (716) 699-2377 during business hours.

In Allegany County, farmers should contact Lynn Bliven at (585) 268-7644 ext. 18 or email lao3@cornell.edu to schedule a pickup or delivery.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)