COVID-19 Field notes from Fiesta

Hi folks!

How are you making out?

Yeah, us too🤷🏿‍♀️.

Somehow, in the midst of a global pandemic, this week felt particularly disorienting.

It wouldn’t feel right to jump into grocery, gardening and community news without acknowledging some of what went down this week. People being accosted, hurt, and killed because of their skin colour. Pigment. Culture.

We know it’s nothing new. We know it happens Everywhere. In the US. In Canada. In Toronto. Parkdale is achingly close to home.

We know that the tragedies and near tragedies that took place this week are just a few currently visible signals of systemic, institutionalized inequity. Massive, pervasive, perpetual unfairness. The challenge is so big it’s hard to fathom let alone confront.

So we mostly do our best to not be part of the problem.

But when the problem is “the way things are,” not changing things IS being part of the problem.

Here’s one small thing people can do. Contribute to a gofundme for Regis Korchinski Paquet. Or to The Stop, around the corner. Or FoodShare.

This wasn’t supposed to be a lecture, it just felt like, since we have a teeny tiny platform, that we should say something.

Today we’d like to tell you about:

  • Some good news
  • COVID-19 precautions updates
  • Garden Centre News

A bit of good news

  • The team-mate who tested positive a couple of weeks ago is on the mend

COVID-19 precautions

We’re still practicing every measure we’ve added since the start of the pandemic, including enforcing the use of masks.

This still seems to be a problem for some people. Hear us out?

We’re enforcing masks for two reasons

  1. All of the health authorities we cited in our Mask-gate post still promote the practice (eg: Health Canada, Public Health OntarioToronto Public HealthThe Ontario Medical Association, Centre for Disease ControlJohns HopkinsCambridgeHarvard Medical)
  2. We’ve yet to see any research from a credible source suggesting that masks, in and of themselves, and used properly, cause problems. Not instead of hand sanitization. Not instead of physical distancing. On top of them.

We’re happy to consider further research as it emerges. Send us a note through the contact form on the website if you’ve learned something that might enlighten us. Please try to keep the politics out of it.

And all that said:

please don’t mask police or Covid-shame other people. Just because someone isn’t doing it perfectly doesn’t mean they’re a menace to society. Being scared doesn’t give you a right to harass people. The masks are a tiny extra layer of precaution.  Wash your hands, avoid touching your face as much as possible between disinfecting, and try to maintain physical distance from people you are going to be talking to for 15 minutes.

We’ll do the same, plus the other hundred measures that represent our current normal.

Remember to be excellent to each other.

Garden Centre Updates

Thanks for your patience and collaboration in making the start of the gardening season as low stress as it can be, all things being equal.

We’re updating the site as best we can as items come in but the fastest way to find out whether we have exactly what you’re after at the moment is by asking at the front gate.

Deliveries are moving along really, partly thanks to a helping hand from the team at Ecoman. Jonas can share gardening and landscape advice (and services) and has some great ideas for people in apartments and condos who want to make their small outdoor space green.

So far here’s what we know:


  • The lineup, even at its peak, has never been for longer than an hour.
  • Afternoon lines seem to be around 30-40 mins long.
  • Morning lines seem longer (Maybe people are trying to beat a rush, beat the heat, or just get a jump on the day?).


  • Rocks, trees and shrubs aren’t here yet.
  • We have plenty of herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, you name it).
  • Vegetables are completely sold out for this year. This is an industry-wide issue. Farmers called us in March re: orders. Retailers had no idea what was ahead and must have under-ordered, resulting in growers planting less. 
  • The annuals are fine. We occasionally run out of certain things and supply isn’t as stable as usual, so if you need something specific, please ask at the gate before you wait in line.
  • Perennials are fine.
  • A good selection of Tropicals will be available online and in-store beginning Friday, June 5th.
  • There have been soil shortages but we have plenty at the moment.

We hear the weather’s going to be okay this weekend. We hope you get some fresh. Stay safe.

Not today, COVID 😈

Edit: If you only read one part of this post, read this: Yes, we are open.

  • In the future, please feel free to look at the hours listed on the side–it’s even faster than calling!
  • Not that we don’t love talking to you, we do, but we’ve moved “things we love to do” down on the priority list and moved, “expedite service” up.
  • In a hurry? See the latest on our COVID-19 Dashboard.

Now, back to the news:

We think it’s fair to say that we’ve been strong on communications throughout this crisis.

So we could understand if, after a big announcement like the one we shared on Wednesday (that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19) if our many supporters would expect some news. A hint about how it’s all going.

But that wasn’t the case.

Don’t get us wrong, We got a LOT of email through the form on our site starting on Wednesday, but no one asked about whether we’d be able to reopen.

Matthew wrote in to say:

I very much appreciated the openness, transparency, clarity and empathy with which you communicated the circumstances around the store closing. It gives me great confidence in you.

I wish you all, most importantly the team member who has tested positive, good health.


Sara said:

To you and all your employees I send positive thoughts after all the good measures & precautions you’ve taken; way beyond anywhere else I shop.
I sincerely hope this employee is an isolated case and he/she has a very mild case & an easy recovery.

Thank you for updating your web site so honestly & transparently. It means a lot these days!!


You won’t believe what Arielle said (so we’ll show you):

Hello Fiesta Farms Team,

I wanted to let you know how impressed I am by your response to Covid-19. I live in the neighbourhood, am a long time regular customer. I’m also a doctor, and very pregnant and due soon.

I am continually impressed by the measures you’ve put in place to protect your team and your customers. I love the new mask policy even though masks are hard on everyone. I love being able to show up in the first hour when it is less crowded to help lower the risk of either picking up covid or passing it on to others. I love being handed a cart with a freshly sanitized handle. I love hearing a security team member politely ask shoppers to come back to a section that has become overcrowded. I love speaking to the cashiers from behind our mutual masks and the Plexiglas barriers.

It’s not the shopping experience I used to love there, but it is what feels appropriate right now.

I’m especially impressed by your communication and transparency on your website.

I hope your team member who tested positive has a very mild case and feels well soon. Thank you for telling us about it, and the timeline, and your plans. Thank you for referencing medical authorities when informing the public about your policy decisions.

I’m sure these last few months have been an incredible strain, but you’ve been doing great work and I am very grateful. I feel very safe shopping at Fiesta Farms during these unprecedented times and having that extra bit of stress removed makes a big difference.

Keep up the good work and know that it is appreciated!

All the best,


Get a tissue, because then John wrote in to say:

As a long-time happy Fiesta customer, I was so sorry to hear today about the team member who has tested positive for the corona virus, and to pass along my very best wishes to this person and to wish them well, along with their loved ones and all other Fiestans who may have been in contact with them.

I think we all deeply appreciate the attention Fiesta has been giving to the current situation, and realize that this was always a possibility, no matter how remote, in these unusual circumstances.

You have admirably managed the customer experience to make us all feel safe, and I’m confident that the sanitization steps you are currently undertaking will enable a safe re-opening, which I’m looking forward to.

Please know that all our thoughts are with you!

– John


I can’t give away names or details, but a friend across the country asked to buy a customer who’s work has been curtailed during isolation (Think physical trainer kind of thing) a gift card for her birthday.

You know what Georgia said?

Just wanted to reach out to express how sorry I am that a team member has tested positive for this diabolical virus! I hope that they have an easy and quick recovery and that the rest of you stay healthy.

I know how hard the whole Fiesta team has been working for all of us and I have been so impressed with all of your efforts.

Much gratitude, Georgia


Andrea wrote into detail her last shop on the 16th, in case we needed to trace our steps for public health.

Jacqueline, “*not* a lawyer (just a friendly patron of your store)”  wrote in share to share Clauses from the Freedom of Information and Protection Act to help us stay onside of the law in what information we could share about the individual without their permission.


Wendy said:

Thanking you all and wishing a good recovery to the staff member who contracted the virus providing service to us.
Take good care of yourselves!


Ian wanted us to know:

Dear Fiesta

I was impressed with your communication around your employee with COVID-19.

Thank you.


Gregory said:

Thank you for being an inspiring leader in my neighbourhood, in the business community and the city through your amazingly thoughtful and well reasoned policies and explanations online.

I deeply appreciate your precautionary approach to masks–for every detractor you have 10 fans.

Thank you and looking forward to your reopening.


And then there was Shirley + Joe’s note:

We are sorry to learn that a member of Fiesta’s staff has tested positive for Covid. Joe and I wish him/her a speedy recovery and we hope that their family and the rest of our Fiesta team have tested negative.

Thank you for your disinfecting measures so that all of you & your customers stay safe.

We totally support you in being extra cautious right now & suspending home deliveries.

We look forward to hearing when you will be resuming home deliveries (not just because we love your products but mostly because it will mean that you are all healthy!)
Shirley & Joe


On Twitter, people said stuff like this:


And this:


The list goes.

Kind words of concern from customers, neighbours, and other local entrepreneurs. Almost invariably asking about the health of our teammate, sharing sympathy for our challenges, gratitude for our efforts to date, and kudos for our reaction.

WHO raised these people?

We can’t even get into the comments on Facebook. The announcement post had 199 comments. 196 of them were of the same ilk. Read them if you need to restore your faith in humanity.

So, why not share the information about our status with this amazing community as it came out?

Because Public Health didn’t give us the go-ahead until tonight.

Then they did.

So we’ll see you tomorrow.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • All employees whose results came back by end-of-day today tested negative.
  • The few whose results are coming in tomorrow will stay home until their results are in too.
  • The individual who tested positive is feeling okay, thanks for asking.
  • The store has been through exhaustive cleanings by external sources.
  • We will continue to observe all recommended preventive measures (they’ve worked so far).
  • We love you. And we’re grateful for all of your support.
  • We’ll be pooped tomorrow. We were in late and we’ll be back in early.

Let’s get back to feeding people.

Fiesta Gardens closed until May 23rd

Fiesta Gardens will be closed until Saturday, May 23rd to help ensure the ongoing safety of our staff and customers. All deliveries and scheduled curb-side pickups are temporarily on hold.

We’ll continue to provide updates as the situation unfolds and thank you for your continued support!

For the latest on our response to COVID-19, please check out our dashboard.

COVID-19 Update

This is a short note to let you know that:

  • A team member has tested positive for COVID-19 😔.
  • What we’re doing about it.
  • How this will affect you.

A team member has tested positive for COVID-19

The individual’s last day here was Saturday, May 16th, but:

  • We hope they and their family are OK.
  • We’ll continue our policy of erring on the side of caution and take all recommended precautions.


  • According to store policy, when a team member is feeling unwell, they should stay home. The team member elected to do so on Sunday.
  • They went for a test on Monday and were given an appointment to come back Tuesday.
  • They received the test on Tuesday, and their results came in this AM (Wednesday, May 20th).
  • They immediately called the store to let us know.
  • We informed the staff and called Public Health.
  • Now we’re telling you.

What we’re doing

  • Meeting with staff to discuss who has been in contact with the affected staff member.
  • Closing the store and bringing in a sanitation team to complement our surface disinfection measures.

How this will affect customers

  • We’re planning on resuming regular hours on Saturday, May 23rd to give all team members a chance to get tested.
  • To err on the side of caution we’re suspending new delivery orders until all team members have been tested. We need to ensure we’re not playing a role in spreading COVID-19.

How this will affect staff

As a precaution, all team members have been instructed to go for testing today.


Thanks for your support and understanding. We’ve met every phase of this pandemic head-on and we’re not stopping now. We’ll continue to share more information as it becomes available.


Dear Fiesta community,

We’ve had our mandatory mask policy in place for about a week now and think it’s worth stating publicly what we’ve now had to address privately on multiple occasions.

Masks hit a particular nerve for some people.

We hate the masks too. They’re antithetical to everything Fiesta stands for. For many, we’re a kind of community centre where people socialize, learn, relax, and mix with people they don’t usually meet through a shared experience.

Physical distancing was a challenge.

Masks that cover smiles are devastating.

We believe that sometimes people do things they hate on a personal level for the benefit of a group.

Or even the perceived benefit.

Or even the chance of benefit.

Masks affect our business. They hurt morale–who wants to go to work and put on a mask? And they remove the soul of the store–friendly faces.

We’re using masks and maintaining our mask mandate because days of research into the recommendations of local and global health officials tell us that there is a small likelihood that masks reduce an asymptomatic or unaware carrier’s chances of spreading COVID-19.

While they’re all careful to remind us that masks are a supplement to physical distancing, handwashing, and disinfection measures, all we can turn up are bodies that recommend them.

Here are links to a few:

Here are collated common questions and comments so we can avoid repeating ourselves.

Health Canada does not say it is mandatory. 

That’s true. But only children need to be mandated to take health advice.

For example, Health Canada recommends eating more fruits and vegetables. It’s a work in progress (especially broccoli), but we’re trying, even without a mandate. They also don’t mandate physical activity. But their recommendations look reasonable enough.

We’re glad they’re not forcing us to do those things because human nature would probably make us want to do them less :).

But most importantly, what’s the harm?

If we can bear adding this measure to the long list of shifts we’ve had to implement, why can’t a visitor just obey the house rules for a one-hour shop each week?

When we visit people’s houses who ask us to take off our shoes we just do it. Civil society obeys rules, guidelines and social mores everywhere we go. Why does this one rankle?

Anyway, here’s what Health Canada recommends:

How to protect others

The best thing you can do to prevent spreading COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. If none is available, use hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol base.

To protect others, you should also:

  • stay at home
  • maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others
    • when physical distancing cannot be maintained, consider wearing a non-medical mask or homemade face covering
  • avoid touching your face, mouth, nose or eyes

Wearing a homemade facial covering/non-medical mask in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it and is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing.

However, it can be an additional measure taken to protect others around you, even if you have no symptoms. It can be useful for short periods of time, when physical distancing is not possible in public settings, such as when grocery shopping or using public transit.

Did you notice they mentioned grocery stores? We bolded it for you.

Health Canada literally used our industry as an example of the kind of situation in which physical distancing could be challenging and a non-medical home-made or cloth mask could offer an additional level of protection.

Can you not just leave this up to a matter of individual choice? 

Well, we did that for a while.

The trouble with this approach is that many carriers are asymptomatic.

And even people who will develop symptoms can spread it for days before they feel sick.

Whatever tiny efficacy non-surgical masks have demonstrated so far seems to reduce the wearer’s ability to spread COVID-19 by reducing the number of droplets they spray when they talk–please continue to cough and sneeze into your “sneev” (elbow crook) even if you’re wearing a mask.

Meaning you don’t wear it to protect yourself. You wear it to protect others from you.

Which is kind of a nice sentiment 🤓.

But it also means that if we let you choose not to wear one and you’re an asymptomatic spreader, then all those people who chose to wear a mask because they were trying to protect you, a stranger, in our aisles, are at risk.

Does that seem fair to you? That sucks. Let’s protect people who think of others.

I guess sometimes you need to help people make choices that benefit the community.

There is no conclusive evidence that face-masks actually help in non-medical situations. 

That’s true. But a bit like the mandatory point, we’re willing to go with recommendations from professionals on this one.

For example, in the “Cloth Face Covers FAQ, under the question, “When do you need to wear a cloth face covering” the CDC says:

A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people are in a community setting, especially in situations where you may be near people. These settings include grocery stores and pharmacies. These face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing. Cloth face coverings are especially important to wear in public in areas of widespread COVID-19 illness.

Did you notice they mentioned grocery stores? We bolded it for you.

The world’s leading medical schools agree:

Johns Hopkins Medical University says:

The general public: The virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity — for example via speaking, coughing, or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this evidence, wearing a cloth face mask or covering in public places where social distancing can’t be observed will help reduce spread of the disease. For example, in a grocery store or on a bus, if you wear a face mask, you help protect those around you in case you cough or sneeze.

Did you notice they mentioned grocery stores? We bolded it for you.

Harvard Medical School’s Coronavirus Resource Center responds to the question “How soon after I’m infected with the new coronavirus will I start to be contagious?” with:

We know that a person with COVID-19 may be contagious 48 to 72 hours before starting to experience symptoms. Emerging research suggests that people may actually be most likely to spread the virus to others during the 48 hours before they start to experience symptoms.

If true, this strengthens the case for face masks, physical distancing, and contact tracing, all of which can help reduce the risk that someone who is infected but not yet contagious may unknowingly infect others.


Your staff is wearing masks and anyone who is worried – can wear a mask – we do not all have to wear masks.


As hopefully communicated above:

  • We’re trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to staff, customers, and community.
  • We’re following the recommendations of the most credible health, professional, institutional and medical bodies.
  • They universally agree that non0medical grade masks, while they don’t do much, are worth wearing to help reduce the inadvertent spread of COVID-19 by people who have contracted it in the last 5 days but aren’t showing symptoms.


We understand that it’s possible that humanity might benefit from letting COVID-19 run unchecked in the hopes that it mutates into a more mild strain in the evolutionary interest of its own survival.

We agree that this virus will be around in some capacity until a vaccine is made available.

We just don’t want to be a vector for infection.