Will this year’s Farmer’s Markets be cancelled because of COVID-19?
The short answer is no; farmers markets will remain open. New York State has determined that farmer’s markets, and agriculture in general, are essential and may continue operating during the COVID-19 outbreak. That said, the markets may look decidedly different from previous years.
On March 31st, the state issued interim guidance to operators of farmer’s markets outlining safety precautions they must take in order to minimize or eliminate the spread of COVID-19. Activities that would otherwise cause a crowd to gather are prohibited. Consequently, you will not see live music or cooking demonstrations. With the exception of those individuals selling soap and hand sanitizers, non-food vendors are also prohibited. Markets must implement other measures to prevent the spread of COVID. Farmers are being encouraged to pre-package produce in bags or trays. Buyers will be prohibited from handling food. Those sellers handling cash or credit cards are being asked not to handle food items. Hand-washing stations will be available at the markets. Growers are also being asked to sanitize their stalls frequently.
A second impact of the COVID outbreak relates to growers and wholesalers that previously relied upon restaurant sales. Some are shifting towards direct-to-consumer retail sales, re-packaging products in consumer-friendly quantities. Growers that previously had not engaged in direct marketing may begin selling at farm-stands or at the farmer’s markets. To facilitate social distancing, some are taking orders online, offering delivery, or offering curb-side pickup. Some are pre-selling shares in this summer’s harvest (known as consumer supported agriculture or CSA) for the first time.
Individuals wishing to buy locally-produced food can easily locate producers by consulting their county’s food guide. The digital version of the 2020 food guide for Jefferson County is now available on Cornell Cooperative Extension’s website(http://ccejefferson.org/local-foods). We will be distributing the 2020 edition in hardcopy in late May. Similarly, the 2019 edition of the Lewis County local food guide is available on the Lewis County Cooperative Extension website, with the publication of the 2020 edition expected soon (https://go.aws/3cgR56G). Gardenshare, in coordination with St. Lawrence County Cooperative Extension, has already published the 2020 local food guide for St. Lawrence County (https://www.gardenshare.org/food-guide). Finally, buyers interested in locally grown meat can consult www.meatsuite.com to locate farmers near them that offers direct sales.
Question answered by Mike Nuckols, Local Foods and Horticulture Program Manager for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated May 5, 2020