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FOOD: A Guide for Farmers' Markets to Navigate the COVID-19 Outbreak

March 24, 2020
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Farmers’ markets play an essential role in the food distribution network, similar to traditional grocery stores.

Consumers depend on farmers’ markets for fresh, local foods, and vendors depend on them as an outlet through which to sell products. Keeping these markets open while maintaining public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic is a priority — evidenced by California’s designation of farmers’ markets as essential spaces amid a statewide shelter-in-place and the continued operation of some New York farmers’ markets.

However, markets must implement proper precautions and amend their more social practices. Farmers’ markets have traditionally allowed farmers to socially engage with consumers. At this time, farmers’ markets must shift solely to providing essential spaces for people to purchase fresh, local food.

Initiating sensible changes, communicating those clearly to customers and vendors, and considering online options as applicable will increase the likelihood that markets can stay open to the general public. The goal is to ensure public safety, promote the purchase of local foods and support local farmers and economies at a challenging moment.

This guide helps farmers’ market managers and boards navigate uncertain times by offering:

Please note that regulations are subject to change amid fluid developments in the COVID-19 pandemic response. Also, consult the links throughout the article for more information and review the Resources at the bottom of the article.

Preventing Contamination
To minimize the potential spread of COVID-19, market managers and boards should:

Vendors should also take the following precautions for interactions, pricing, payment and bagging:

Social Distancing
At this time, social distancing is necessary to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. This may not be an issue for smaller markets, but larger markets will need to plan ahead and communicate changes with customers.

Market managers and boards are advised to:

Additional logistics can encourage social distancing and prevent community spread.

Communication
Maintaining regular, informative contact with customers and vendors is the best way to successfully implement any new procedures or policies.

Alternative Marketplaces
There is a significant chance that farmers’ markets as they have been traditionally set up could be postponed or potentially canceled. Now is the time to consider alternatives for selling products.

One idea is a drive-thru market — in which customers pick up orders from their vehicles, which limits both contact with others and their time at the market.

Here is how such a market could work:

In this scenario, the market is still able to accept payment through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Vendors can also implement online ordering through their sites — using the farmers’ market as a pickup location for pre-packaged products.

 

Resources

Purdue University – Extension

Purdue Extension: A Guide for Local Producers to Navigate the COVID-19 Outbreak

Indiana Grown

Indiana State Department of Health

Bloomington Winter “Drive-thru” Farmers’ Market

 

Authors

Amanda Baird, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Purdue Extension – Tipton County

Karen Mitchell, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Purdue Extension – Tippecanoe County

Tyler Neier, Danville Farmers’ Market Co-Master / Neier Farms and Produce, Danville, Indiana

Nathan Shoaf, Purdue Extension Urban Agriculture State Coordinator

Heather Tallman, Indiana Grown Program Director, Indiana State Department of Agriculture

Laurynn Thieme, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Purdue Extension – Delaware County

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