Ontario police target u-pick apple farmer, threaten $100,000 social distancing fine

It’s been a tough season for farmer Scott Lunau of Albion Orchards in Caledon, Ontario.

Yet again it was a hot dry summer, which is not ideal for growing apples. And thanks to the CERB being implemented, Scott says it’s almost impossible finding workers who want to do manual labour when the federal government is paying people to stay home.

So, the last thing Scott needed around harvest time was a visit to his farm by members of the Ontario Provincial Police. The reason? Wuhan virus protocols were being violated… well, maybe… perhaps…

You see, Scott offers members of the public the opportunity to pick their own apples and also to shop for foodstuffs in a store that is located on the farm property. But some OPP constables driving by Albion Orchards didn’t like what they saw.

At the time, Scott says there were perhaps 200 people on his 50-acre farm that is home to apple trees, evergreens, pear trees, and pumpkins and squash. Scott said that the police felt he “might” be in violation of the new provincial COVID-19 rules pertaining to social gatherings which kicked in last Friday (namely, a maximum of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.)

But Scott is not hosting “social gatherings” but rather, he’s a farmer and a businessman simply trying to make a living.

And how is it possible that people congregating outdoors on a 50-acre piece of real estate is a supposed health hazard yet members of the public congregating indoors at a Walmart or Costco (stores that have far smaller footprints) is OK?

Scott says even the police were confused.

At one point, a constable called a sergeant for guidance. In the meantime, they barked orders at him, noting he should spray-paint lines on the gravel parking lot to encourage social distancing and that he needs to “sanitize” an old tractor that is simply used as a prop on the farm.

Scott plans to comply given that being slapped with a fine ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 would be financially devastating for him.

But is he even running afoul of the rules in the first place?

We dropped by the local OPP detachment in Caledon to seek clarity in terms of whether Scott was running afoul of the law but we were told to pass along our questions to the local public health unit! So, apparently, it seems that law enforcement is disturbingly unsure about the nuances of the law.

As for Scott, this weekend he’s expecting another big turnout of customers at his farm.

In the meantime, he’ll be spray-painting lines on his parking lot and sanitizing his tractor – all the while keeping his fingers crossed that he’s not going to be slapped with a huge fine for the egregious crime of selling apples in the great outdoors…