Minnesota residents craving fresh produce won’t have to wait long, as farmers markets are beginning to open across the region — with some coronavirus-related restrictions in place.
According to Governor Walz’s stay-at-home order, farmers markets are deemed essential, but in more ways than one. They are a direct line to your producer. Short of heading out to the farm itself and buying right out of the barn, farmers markets are the most direct way to talk and learn and create a relationship with your local farmers.
According to the Minnesota Farmers Market Association (MFMA), markets are not included in the partial closure of Minnesota restaurants and bars and are encouraged to resume opening for business. However, there are a few caveats, as providing a safe environment for everyone is still paramount.
The MFMA suggests alternate delivery routes, such as drive-through options or single-direction flow. Food sampling is banned and social distancing of six feet is required. Additionally, hand-washing stations must be available and are encouraged to be used with gusto.
Markets across the state have been brainstorming ways to make sure that both farmers and customers will be able to continue this positive relationship all the while ensuring both parties will relatively safe during this pandemic.
Some methods include one-way traffic flow for people walking through the markets, creating layouts with stalls facing in opposite directions, and even adding empty tables between vendors and customers to ensure that social distancing takes place are all being considered for markets as they begin opening up.
Vendors are being asked to have only one person handle the produce while another person only handles transactions. This will minimize unnecessary contact. Also, hand-washing stations are being rented and placed at the entrance and exits to markets.
In the past markets have been a place to congregate, hang out, play games, chat with friends, listen to concerts, and in general, be part of a larger community. But, unfortunately, with the new restrictions in place, visitors are being asked to limit their time at the market to purchasing and then moving on, becoming merely a transactional space instead of a gathering space.
But, what are your markets doing?
Locally, the Pine River Market Square is incorporating a location change to help facilitate the new restrictions. According to their Facebook post, the PRMS will be opening today (!!), March 29. Here’s what they’ll be asking participants to do and know when they visit:
- “There will be a single entrance, and visitors must wash hands before entering.
- We ask that symptomatic individuals refrain from entering the market.
- There will be no onsite food consumption – sorry, no samples.
- We will be limiting the number of visitors in the market at any given time. We ask that you respect the instruction of the market managers.
- We recommend but do not require that visitors and vendors wear masks.
- And last but not least, please respect social distancing guidelines.”
There’s also the Brainerd Lakes Area Farmers Markets, a market that convenes three times a week in three different locations (Brainerd, Baxter, and Nisswa). The BLAFM has put together a Covid-19 response plan to help make sure farmers and their customers are able to meet safely to do business.
If you’re looking for a list of local farmers markets, head on over to Minnesota Grown. They’ve got a comprehensive list of markets, CSA share opportunities, and other great info related to purchasing directly from your local producer.