What are farmers’ markets doing to ensure safety during the pandemic?

This post is part of Petaluma Bounty’s CalFresh Awareness Month Blog Series. 

As we’ve briefly stated in some previous social media posts, farmers’ markets are operating as essential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. Building off our last blog installment about using CalFresh at farmers’ markets, we also want to share what our farmers’ markets are doing to keep every aspect of the market community safe and healthy. 

First, it’s important to share which markets are part of Bounty’s Farmers’ Market LIFE coalition: Agricultural Community Events Markets, Healdsburg Farmers’ Market, Santa Rosa Original Certified Markets, and the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market. Second, it’s important to keep in mind the context of the market policies and procedures listed below. They represent a snapshot in time amidst continuously evolving circumstances from the local to national levels. Markets and vendors must adjust to changing regulatory environment by identifying the lowest common denominator for all community members as well as its enforceability. What makes sense to one person, may not make sense to others; please remember that market staff are working hard to maintain markets as a safe and viable option for local consumers and farmers. 

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Each of these markets have incredibly dedicated managers, staff, farmers, vendors and advocates. Following the guidance of the California Department of Health, all FM LIFE markets have undertaken the following best practices and recommendations to ensure a safe and positive for all:

  1. Space booths accordingly to increase social distancing among patrons in line and walking about the market.
    1. All markets will space booths a minimum of 6 feet.
  2. Ensure that social distancing of six feet per person is maintained and make clear that households can shop together, stand in line together, etc.
    1. All markets will encourage people to send one representative from each household to purchase items to minimize group size.
    2. Post prominent signage throughout the market asking customers to observe social distancing of six feet.
    3. All markets will use chalk, painters tape, or another visual reminder of physical distance for lines.
  3. Limit the number of customers at any given time as necessary to reduce outdoor crowding and lines to meet social distancing guidance.
    1. All markets will use chalk, painters tape, or another visual reminder of physical distance for lines.
    2. All markets will participate in crowd management practices. 
  4. Increase cleaning and sanitizing frequency of restroom and other high contact areas.
    1. All markets will be equipped with hand sanitizer and/or multiple hand washing areas.
    2. L.I.F.E. will request temporary hand washing stations from city/county on behalf of all markets.
  5. Train volunteers & employees on best hygiene practices including washing their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    1. All markets will display images and guidelines for proper hand washing and sanitizing techniques for all patrons and vendors.
  6. Offer additional hand washing or sanitizing stations throughout the venue.
    1. All markets will Increase hand washing stations placed throughout the market. 
    2. L.I.F.E. will request temporary hand washing stations from city/county on behalf of all markets.
  7. Eliminate events/marketing that target individuals that the CDPH has identified as higher risk of serious illness for COVID-19.
  8. Encourage activities such as pre-bagging to expedite purchasing.
    1. All markets will encourage vendors to be the sole handlers of produce to ensure the produce has minimum to no contact with customers.
    2. While option “a” is the standard, markets may also create signage explaining that customers are only to touch what they are going to buy.
    3. All markets will encourage vendors to use disposable gloves at all times.
    4. All markets will encourage vendors to pre-bag produce while still following proper labeling guidelines. 
  9. All markets will suspend all sampling activities.
  10. Increase frequency of cleaning of tables, payment devices, and other surfaces.
    1. All markets will check in with vendors to ensure they have plenty and proper cleaning supplies.
  11. All markets will eliminate non-essential/non-related services, including community events, bands or other entertainment, and craft vendors minus soaps, herbal medicines, baskets, and skin care)
    1. All markets will remove seating to mitigate customer congregation wherever possible.
  12. At the end of the market, continue to utilize local food recovery systems to feed/donate extra products to populations in need.
  13. If applicable, continue accepting EBT payment.
    1. All of our markets that accept EBT will continue doing so.
    2. All markets will wipe down EBT machines after each use.
    3. Whenever possible, one person will do the EBT transaction and another person will handle the tokens to minimize exposure.
  14. Offer curbside pickup for households that must maintain social isolation.

While the markets are doing everything possible to keep access to local food a viable option, it’s important that community members wear masks to market and practice social distancing measures. Our market managers still want everyone to support local food within the parameters of the current public health crisis, which can be summed up in the following phrase: there’s still community at farmers’ markets, it just looks a bit different. 

Please check your local markets’ website in case they have any additional information. Even now, things are rapidly changing, so be sure to stay up to date on what’s happening at your market.

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