Farmers Market Shopping During COVID-19

How to Shop Locally While Keeping Yourself and Your Community Safe

Opening day at the farmers market has always been full of excitement. It marks the start of spring, and the promise of summer. You expect to hear laughter, and see families bustling around with smiling children. It is a time to catch up with friends you haven’t seen since fall, and time to start filling your table with fresh produce. This year has certainly been strange, and many events have been cancelled or postponed. Our local farmers, however, have not slowed down. Spring is here, plants are growing, and markets are opening — albeit with some changes. Markets have found innovative ways to support both farmers and communities as new information comes to light, and new guidelines from the CDC are shared. 

As you venture to your favorite market in the coming weeks, you may notice some of the following changes:

  • One-way shopping lanes – some markets are directing the flow of traffic through their vendors strategically; this ensures you get to visit each vendor without bumping into people and breaking physical distancing.
  • New layouts – markets may spread out during this time to provide comfortable space between vendor tables.
  • Shopper limits – some markets will limit the total number of people that can shop at once so that adequate distance can be kept between shoppers. Most markets are also encouraging families to send one person to do the shopping rather than making it a family outing. 
  • Online pre-ordering – many markets have implemented online markets where vendors upload their weekly stock, customers preorder and prepay, then pick up their orders on market day drive-thru style!
  • No-touch shopping – have you found yourself wondering how many hands have touched those apples at the grocery store? Many of our farmers markets are asking that we shop with our eyes not our hands, and trust our farmers to select the best available options, bag them for us, and hand them to us. This ensures that the only hands that touched your food before you are the ones that harvest it.
  • Increased communication – both online and at markets. Follow your markets on social media; this is where most of them are posting updates, and where you will be the first to know of new changes. At market, you’ll notice more signs informing you of changes. 
  • Delayed opening – while many markets have been able to pivot in order to open on time, some simply don’t have the resources to safely open at this time, or their municipalities may not yet allow it. Please understand that they are doing everything they can to open their markets for you. 

The following points outline some ways in which you can make sure your market trip is efficient and safe:

  • Stay connected – Before you head out, check your market’s social media pages. This is where you’ll find the latest updates including any schedule or operational changes.
  • If possible, order online – Some markets have set up online farmers markets, and others are encouraging customers to order directly from individual vendors. When you order ahead, your farmers market goods will be ready for you to swing through and pick up on market day. 
  • Go cashless if you can – If you must pay with cash, bring exact change in the form of one, five, and ten dollar bills. Many markets are not allowing for change to be made at this time. Vendors at these markets will have their goods priced accordingly.
  • Wear a mask – Wear a cloth face mask and follow all current CDC guidelines for shopping or being out in public including staying 6 feet away from other shoppers, and washing your hands frequently.
  • Allow yourself more time – Depending on your market’s new set up, your visit may take longer than usual. If your market has gone online and is offering drive through pick up options, plan on a car line similar to picking up children from school. 
  • Go alone – If at all possible, please send only one family member to do the shopping. If your children have to come along, make sure they stay by your side. Leave the family pet at home for now – most markets are not allowing dogs at this time.
  • Browse with your eyes, not your hands – Touching produce or market goods is discouraged at this time. Point out what you would like to purchase, and let the vendor package it for you.
  • Get what you need, and head back home – Markets are asking that only one person or family unit visit a booth at a time. To keep the flow moving, and to help ensure everyone has a chance to get what they need please do not linger.
  • Use your SNAP benefits – If you are a SNAP recipient, your transaction will have to be processed on site as there is not an online EBT system available to farmer markets yet. Please do not be deterred! When you use your benefits at a farmers market you are helping to build the local economy and are directly supporting a farmer.
  • Share! Post your farmers market haul (#farmersmarkethaul) pictures online. Tag your farmer, and your market. We love to see pictures of the meals you create with local goods!