Following state leaders’ assurance that farmers markets and produce stands are “essential businesses,” three farmers markets in Champaign County made plans to open for the season and use guidelines provided by the state and the Ohio Farmers’ Market Network to guard against the spread of COVID-19.
First to open will be the Champaign County Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 2, at the corner of East Market and Locust streets, just east of the Urbana municipal building.
Next up will be the St. Paris Farmers Market from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 8, outside the village municipal building (inside if bad weather).
The Mechanicsburg Farmers Market’s first day will be Tuesday, June 2, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. by the village fire station.
On April 17, the Ohio Department of Agriculture confirmed for farmers market managers that markets could open provided they follow orders such as social distancing of 6 feet between people and the availability of hand sanitizer and sanitizing products for employees and customers.
Business not quite as usual
“All (food) products must be in bags and sealed,” said Jeff Conley, president of the Champaign County and Mechanicsburg farmers markets. He said “sealed” may mean stapled or closed in some other manner. He added that patrons are not to touch products until they are purchased. The people selling the products will show customers what they need to see.
“You have to do that or you defeat the purpose,” he said. “We’re trying to protect everybody.”
While patrons will be offered sanitizing products and rubber gloves, they are required of vendors, who also will be wearing masks. He added that at least one vendor will be selling masks.
Conley said there will be entrance and exit points and ground markings indicating the mandated 6 feet between people. He said that the markings in Mechanicsburg may need to be drawn each week since the market is held on grass.
At the county Farmers Market in Urbana, patrons will enter from East Market Street, walk past all the tables and exit back onto East Market Street.
Vendor spaces will be 12 feet by 12 feet, rather than the usual 10 feet by 10 feet, and there will be 4 feet between each tent. So that all display areas can be wiped, there will be no tablecloths or surfaces such as wood, Conley said.
He said watchers will be assigned to make sure everyone follows the rules.
Conley said these changes shouldn’t upset vendors or buyers. “They should be happy they’re letting us do it,” he said of the opening of farmers markets.
The St. Paris Farmers Market also will be following Ohio Department of Agriculture guidelines, according to Lisa and Ron Prince, market managers. Social distancing, hand sanitizers and separate entrance and exit points all will be part of this year’s market.
The Princes said vendors will be wearing gloves and patrons are to touch only products they are purchasing.
They ask that patrons only take small bills to the market and that they wear masks. They added that anyone feeling ill should stay home.
Conley said that the Champaign County Farmers Market is similar to many farmers markets in that it starts the season with fewer vendors than it will have come mid-summer. He said the market has gained four new vendors since last year and that he expects to have about 20 vendors at peak season
Conley advises market patrons to keep an eye on the Champaign county Farmers Market Facebook page for updates throughout the season.
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.