In the past, farmers markets felt like refreshing getaways from standard supermarkets of the midwest. We flock to them not only for fresh farm-to-table foods and local honey—but also the social experience that comes along with it. From live entertainment, activities for kids, and much more, the farmers market served as an all-day summer excursion. But now they’re an essential life line for many.
“We were able to create a unified and safe plan for opening to the public as an essential foods provider during an extremely difficult time for so many, especially those who are facing food insecurity, having SNAP or WIC, some for the first time,” said Ashley Brooks, of the Garfield Park Farmers Market.
One of the biggest changes many will notice when they visit their local market will be the transition from a social community event to experiencing the market as an essential food and hygiene provider only.
“Until the restrictions on large gatherings can lift, we cannot allow any music, kids activities, food trucks, or community partners at the market,” Brooks said. “We have focused our layout to encourage folks to shop in a one way direction, shopping quickly and adhering to social distancing. At this time we are not allowing pets in the market, we encourage wearing masks, we cannot allow eating or drinking on site, and we ask that a family designates only one shopper in the market at a time—unless you can’t avoid it.”
Shopping at a farmers market is considered by many even safer than a grocery store at this time because you’re minimizing the amount of contact, or people touching your products since they are coming directly from the farmers and local vendors to consumers. Also, small farmers take extra precautions with their products when it comes to cleanliness and presentation in the local shopping world.
Colleen Fanning of the Broad Ripple Farmers Market, stresses that.
“The Broad Ripple Farmers Market is a vital part of our local economy. The market provides fresh, healthy food to thousands of families, including our food insecure neighbors through the SNAP program. Additionally, sales support 75 local food vendors, often as a primary income source,” Fanning said. “More than ever it is important to support our local economy. Buying healthy, local food from central Indiana vendors is one way that we can keep dollars in our own community.”
Here are some strategic and etiquette guidelines put in place to keep our communities healthy.
- IF YOU ARE ILL OR HAVE SYMPTOMS — STAY HOME!
- PRE-ORDERS AND PRE-PAY: To minimize wait times for all customers, pre-paid pre-orders are highly encouraged. Sign up for your local market’s newsletter to get a list of vendors and more information.
- PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT: All vendors, their staff, and market volunteers will wear masks and disposable gloves.
- EARLY SHOPPING FOR HIGH-RISK GROUPS: A number of markets are offering specific shopping times for people who are immuno-compromised. If that’s the case in your area and you are not high-rise, stay home until the market opens to the public later in the day.
- NO DOGS ALLOWED: Sadly, for them and for us, our furry friends will be asked to stay home to help us comply with social distancing and safety requirements.
- CUSTOMER LIMITS: The number of persons allowed into a market at one time will likely be limited for safe social distancing. Families are encouraged to send only one to two family members to the market.
- MARKET LAYOUT AND TRAFFIC FLOW: Your local market might look a little different, be sure to follow the specific shopping routes put in place. They’re there to help keep everyone as safe as possible.
- SOCIAL DISTANCING: Customers are asked to maintain 6-feet social distancing at all times. Exit the market after completing your purchases and don’t linger or visit with friends like you might have in the past.
- NO EATING OR DRINKING AT THE MARKET: For now, most places will not have ready-to-eat food, beverages, or sampling of vendor products. And no, for the time being, you might not be able to get your kombucha growler refilled.
- PRE-PACKAGED PRODUCE/NO TOUCH POLICIES: All produce at the market should be pre-packaged to reduce handling and customers will probably be asked not touch any produce or other products for sale. Instead, simply rely on the vendor to select and bag it for you.
Most of all, just be patient and kind. Remember that most people are just doing their best under very strange conditions!
Lenie Tsakonas is a freelance writer in Indianapolis.