COVID-19 is bringing restrictions to local farmers markets, but it hasn’t cooled their ambitions. They're re-inventing ways in which customers can shop for fresh produce safely.
The Sparta Farmers Market opened on Saturday, and will be open every Saturday until November.
“Our opening day was fantastic,” said manager Ben Del Coro.
He said he was extremely pleased with the success of the new COVID-19 protocols.
“We had a few hundred customers come through the market over the four hours,” he said. “Everyone was great at social distancing, wearing masks and using the multiple hand-washing stations we have set up. We did not have to create a queue for entering into the market, as attendance numbers never exceeded our capacity."
A few of vendors had queue lines built for their individual booths. Social distancing is being enforced through signs, barriers, and capacity monitoring.
"All customers were patient, friendly, and happy," Del Coro said. "All in all, it was a very successful opening day, even with the circumstances.”
He said the market will add more vendors over the next few weeks to reach its regular number of 16 to 18 vendors.
The following guidelines will be strictly enforced at the market:
● People must at all times maintain a six-foot distance from others.
● Vendor booths will be spaced a minimum of 10 feet apart.
● The number of shoppers in the market will be closely monitored, with queues for entry formed if needed.
● All shoppers, vendors, and market staff must wear gloves and masks.
The Sparta Farmers Market also has an online shopping platform, where customers can preorder products for rapid pick-up at the market or for contactless curbside pickup, Del Coro said.
“Sparta Farmers Market is committed to providing our community, customers and vendors with a safe environment in which to conduct business and shop," he said. "Market management has been studying and closely monitoring the latest direction of state, federal and local agencies."
More markets to open in June
Coordinated by Ken Olsen, of Olsen's Honey & Spice, the Sunday farmers market held at the Shoppes at Lafayette is a popular newcomer. Opening day is June 7. All health regulations will be followed.
"We’re really looking forward to it," Olsen said.
The Sussex County Farmers Market will open on Saturday, June 6.
“We will open with appropriate social distancing,” said Lori Space Day, president of the Sussex County Board of Agriculture. “This is pending approval of the Sussex County Fairgrounds," where the market is held.
Springhouse Creamery has taken a different tact in light of COVID-19.
“We do not go to farmers markets anymore,” they said. “Instead, we sell wholesale to people who do go to them.”
If you aren't feeling well or have been in contact with someone who may be ill, you are asked to refrain from attending markets. If you are healthy, support the local farmers who sell at these local markets. After all, we aren’t called “The Garden State” for nothing. Jersey farmers work year round to bring shoppers the freshest and best when the season comes around.
"All customers were patient, friendly, and happy. All in all, it was a very successful opening day, even with the circumstances.” --Ben Del Coro