Skip to Main Content

From Farm to Table - Enjoy Fresh Produce Safely this Summer

The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented disruption to Indiana’s local production cycles that bring food, fiber, flowers and more to our restaurants, farmers’ markets and communities. As more people are vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, Purdue Extension offers this advice about how to enjoy fresh produce while maintaining safety for yourself and your community.

Extension specialists advise that you stay knowledgeable and follow the current Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 guidance along with federal, state and local health guidelines. Everyone who is eligible should receive a COVID-19 vaccine, which has been proven safe and effective. Those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear a mask and social distance. To find a vaccine clinic in Indiana, visit

General Guidelines

Produce growers may have new methods of selling products such as online or in a reduced capacity or they may return to methods used prior to the pandemic. No matter how you decide to purchase or sell products, it is important to follow best practices in food safety and food handling. Standard guidelines for washing produce with clean water before eating still apply. You should also undertake additional measures including:

  • Communicate to all potential audiences that they should not visit if they feel ill or have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last two weeks
  • Regular cleaning of contact surfaces
  • Readily available hand-washing or hand-sanitizer stations for visitors and employees
  • Encouragement of customers and employees to wash/sanitize their hands before handling produce
  • Discourage the touching of produce that isn’t going to be purchased

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ Markets are a summer tradition for many to get outside, interact with others and purchase fresh produce directly from growers. To minimize the spread of COVID-19, Purdue Extension recommends:

  • Everyone at the market washes their hands before and after attending
  • Place rented portable hand-washing stations throughout the market
  • Consider pre-packaged options for faster checkouts and smaller crowds
  • Prevent customers from touching products they will not purchase

U-Pick / Agritourism Operations

Summer brings many wonderful experiences – including the opportunity for local consumers to pick farm-fresh produce onsite, learn more from local outlets through agritourism and enjoy time outdoors. When visiting a U-Pick or thinking about how to manage your agritourism operation, consider:

  • Advise those attending in any capacity — customer, vendor, worker, volunteer — to wash their hands before arriving and upon returning home.
  • Provide single-use containers or thoroughly disinfect reusable containers whenever they are returned.
  • Properly and regularly disinfect field transportation (e.g., wagon rides).

On-Farm Pickups or Roadside Stands

On-farm pickups or roadside stands are another great way for consumers to personally choose their produce while enjoying time outdoors. Additional considerations for these methods include:

  • Create accessible, clear signage that lists available products and hours of operation
  • Ensure there are no impediments to traffic or utility access easements to improve the flow of traffic and reduce congested areas
  • Protect all products from the weather
  • Prevent customers from touching products they will not purchase

Community Gardens

Community gardens offer many benefits — gardening knowledge, social bonding and, most importantly, the increased production and consumption of nutritious, fresh and locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Garden management should implement and post the following practices for any garden visitors, volunteers or maintenance groups.

  • Ask volunteers to bring their own tools or assign select tools and tasks to individuals
  • For communal tools, create and implement procedures to sanitize tools before and after garden work
  • Undertake additional cleaning and sanitation protocols and recommendations, such as
    • Regular cleaning of contact surfaces (doorknobs, padlocks, water spigots, gates, etc.)
    • Hand-washing or hand-sanitizer stations
    • Reminders on how to properly wash hands (i.e., thoroughly and for 20 seconds)
    • Encouragement of visitors/volunteers to wash or sanitize their hands

Online Markets

Online sales allow customers to purchase products from their residence. This is a great method for consumers who are concerned about their health and / or looking for more convenient purchasing options for fresh produce.

Growers looking to sell products online can explore the following methods:

Indiana has existing online sales platforms to help you connect with customers, manage orders and coordinate delivery locations.

Market Wagon is an online grocery store/farmers’ market that sells hundreds of locally produced goods from hubs of local producers across the Midwest. You can sign up as a vendor to sell in this space.

Hoosier Harvest Market (HHM) is a farmer-owned online farmer cooperative featuring locally grown and produced goods in central Indiana. Northern or southern Indiana producers may want to contact them to gauge how to start another regional cooperative or coordinate new HHM areas of operation.

Indiana Grown is an Indiana State Department of Agriculture initiative featuring over 1,700 members and 50+ business partners that aims to designate products that were grown in Indiana. You can find Indiana Grown products in grocery stores, farmers’ markets, wineries, breweries and more.

The past year has been challenging for everyone, more so for farmers who have had to contend with not just the pandemic but unpredictable weather patterns and local marketplaces. Now is the time for you to reconnect with your local farmer, wherever you prefer to find them.



Tamara Benjamin, Assistant Program Leader and Diversified Agriculture Specialist – Purdue Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources

Abby Leeds, Communications Specialist – Agricultural Communications, Purdue University College of Agriculture

To Top