Farmers markets are essential for the economic vitality of community centered agriculture. In encouraging readers to participate in a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm by purchasing a share in this year’s local bounty, we noted recently that the second best way to support local, small farm agriculture is to develop a relationship with a particular farm that sells at a farmers market. Sadly, during this spring’s corona virus pandemic, keeping local food available has become challenging for farmers markets nationwide with the requirement that we practice social distancing.
For example, we’ve noted before that the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market, the destination farmers market in the Capital Region of upstate New York, has advised that it will be closed until further notice while it assess on a weekly basis the status of the Market with the City of Troy and Rensselaer County. Nonetheless, even while closed, the Troy market has provided a way to Buy direct from TWFM vendors including information on how to still find your favorite prepared food during this pandemic.
Most of the vendors participating in this alternative require a purchaser to drive to their location to pick up orders. Some will arrange to deliver purchases at destination in Troy, for example, Echo Creek Farm will pre-bag orders and deliver them outside a business (Little Pecks Coffee) in downtown Troy. Click on the link to see the options of buying direct from Troy Waterfront Farmers Market (TWFM) vendors.
But buying directly from some vendors is a very weak substitute from the experience of weekly shopping at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market which has been operating for over 20 years in downtown Troy, with nearly 100 local farmers and fresh food vendors. And it’s a fact that the Troy market, that brings huge crowds of people to the historic downtown of this small city every weekend, has been a big part of the reason this small Hudson River city has seen a remarkable urban renaissance.
It has been reported in the Table Hopping blog of Steve Barnes of the Albany Times Union that the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market is in the advance stages of developing an online platform to handle orders for pickup. Items will be packed into a single box or bag, which will be available at a central drive-thru pickup location with minimal need for interaction and for pedestrians there will be a walk-up component as well. The market’s manager, Steve Ridler, also indicated that delivery is also being considered.
Smaller farmers markets, like the Spa City Farmers Market on Sundays at the Saratoga Spa State Park’s Lincoln Baths in Saratoga Springs, NY have remained in operation in a reduced fashion, with steps taken to put into effect social distancing. Precautions include: vendors will be the only ones able to handle products; vendors will clean their hands between touching products and accepting money; patrons will not be allowed to crowd stalls and must keep a safe distance apart and wait their turn to approach the stall; and no sampling will be allowed.
The well-established (since 1978) Saratoga Farmers Market is open on Saturdays year-round and is also operating outdoors during the pandemic while maintaining social distancing. Current operation this spring is from 9:30AM-1:30PM at the Wilton Mall (Bon-Ton/Bow Tie parking lot). It has lots of local, fresh food available.
The seasonal and popular Delmar Farmers Market in suburban Albany, NY is expected to open in mid-May, but the exact date has not been set yet. According to market manager, Paul Tick, the Delmar market will open with new safety features. All foods and soaps are considered essential and will be there, but at this time, there is no expectation that vendors of crafts will be at the market.
The Farmers Market Federation of New York has been providing a list of farmers markets operating during the corona virus pandemic on its website. And the Farmers Market Federation of New York has spotlighted the Interim Guidance for the Operation of Farmers’ Markets (3/31/20) which has been issued by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
In Pennsylvania, the vibrant producer-only (all vendors live and work within 50 miles) farmers market, Farmers On The Square, in downtown Carlisle in Cumberland County near Harrisburg, has also implemented safety guidelines to observe social distancing and will be operating as usual on Wednesdays from 3:00PM to 6:00PM. In addition, it is also offering seniors (60+) only shopping from 2:30PM-3:00PM, as well as online and phone pre-orders and drive-through pick ups.
In Cincinnati, Ohio, the year-round Northside Farmers Market has adjusted to the pandemic by limiting the number of customers allowed to shop within the market at a single time and will have only one entrance to the lot in which the market is set up. It is also making available a hand washing station and encourages its customers and vendors to use it often. This Ohio market also spotlights the ability for customers to use their debit/credit/and EBT (electronic benefit transfer–an electronic system that allows state welfare departments to issue benefits) cards.
In New York City, Anne Barnard in her report in the New York Times, Farmers’ Markets Help Feed an Uneasy City (4/1/20) notes that GrowNYC that operates dozens of farmers markets in the Metropolis has issued a set of stricter guidelines to prevent crowding. Barnard writes that on her visits to three markets, she found the most rigorously distanced public spaces in the city — and evidence of New Yorkers’ ability to adapt to almost anything.
Kudos to all the farmers markets finding ways to support community centered agriculture by adjusting their operation to ensure social distancing and control the spread of the corona virus pandemic. Onward!
(Frank W. Barrie, 4/9/20)