Farmers markets reporting higher attendance as they open within safe shopping guidelines

Farmers market along the Lakeshore are reopening for the 2020 season. But they are taking precautions, which means they won't look, feel, or operate the same as in previous years, at least for now.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Holland's popular outdoor market opened for the season as scheduled on May 13. But changes were made this year after consulting with state and local officials and the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), according to Holland Farmers Market Marketing Coordinator Kara de Alvare.

“Customer safety has always been, and will continue to be, our top priority at the market," she says. 

Market hours will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday. The first shopping hour of each market day will be strictly reserved for shoppers who are immunocompromised, older than 60, or pregnant.

Guidance for shoppers

The guidelines for safe shopping at farmers' markets were established through MIFMA working with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to obtain accurate executive order interpretations and write guidelines. Individual markets are choosing how to implement and work within the guidelines.

A perimeter fence will surround the Holland Farmers Market, with two entrance/exit locations. The number of shoppers allowed inside will be counted and controlled by market employees. Expect to wait for entry in a socially distanced manner and observe social distancing while shopping. Shopping without children is advised to improve efficiency and to keep entry lines moving quickly.

Even with new safety rules, farmers markets are seeing higher attendance.

Persons who have been ill in the past 14 days are asked to not attend the market. Customers are highly advised to wear masks or facial coverings that cover both the nose and mouth.

Food consumption within the market will be prohibited, and shoppers are encouraged to wipe down bags and clean all produce prior to consumption.

Shoppers are asked to sanitize hands both when entering and leaving the market. Holland Farmers Market has put a  list of safe shopping guidelines online. 

Increased interest in local food

MIFMA Executive Director Amanda Shreve says, from her organization’s standpoint, they have not seen an increase in the establishment of new farmers markets but see a strong rise in interest from consumers looking for local food.

“We are hearing from markets that are already open that they are seeing attendance is higher than typical at this time of year, and that farmers are selling out and having higher sales volumes,” Shreve says.

Related: Pandemic changes face, feel of Hollands Farmers Market

Another trend Shreve observed is some markets serving customers through online and pickup orders through May and into early June, postponing in-person shopping until later in the season. She also says that farms offering CSA shares have seen more interest than in the past, with many farms already selling out their typical share numbers.

Lakeshore markets

Zeeland will launch a farmers market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 23, at the corner of Elm and Cherry streets, across from Zeeland City Hall. Zeeland Events Coordinator Kerri VanDorp is working to sign up vendors for the market, which will take place throughout the summer months.

Grand Haven’s Farmers Market started its Saturday farmers market the first week of May, and will add Wednesdays beginning June 3. The market will run 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. under the green canopy at Chinook Pier through Oct. 31. 

Spring Lake will host a weekly farmers market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday at Harvest Bible Chapel parking lot, at 225 E. Exchange St., from June 4 through Oct, 8.

This article is part of The Lakeshore, a new featured section of Rapid Growth focused on West Michigan's Lakeshore region. Over the coming months, Rapid Growth will be expanding to cover the complex challenges in this community by focusing on the organizations, projects, programs, and individuals working to improve conditions and solve problems for their region. As the coverage continues, look for The Lakeshore publication, coming in 2020.
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