As farmers market season winds down this month, Port Huron’s own Vantage Point Farmers Market is celebrating one of its better years.
While market manager Liz Mathews won’t officially know until the season wraps after its last market on Saturday, Oct. 31, early indicators already suggest numbers more robust than even in 2019.
That’s good news in any year, but it’s especially good news in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the ways in which many people do business and created an air of uncertainty, economic and otherwise. But Mathews believes it might be one of the very reasons that the market has enjoyed such popularity this year.
"I think our numbers have been higher this year than last year and I’m not sure if it’s because we’re an outdoor market and people feel more comfortable shopping here or because of recalls happening at grocery stores," Mathews says.
"Here the food comes straight from the farmers and it’s not coming from other countries and traveling thousands of miles and being touched by a bunch of people; it comes straight from the source.
"People are turning to fresh and local foods more and more during the pandemic."
Vantage Point Farmers Market started its 2020 season three weeks later than a typical year. Market officials used that time to prepare for an unusual season, putting safety protocols in place as recommended by the Michigan Farmers Market Association.
Like many farmers markets throughout the state, Vantage Point requires that its guests wear face masks and maintain social distancing while shopping. One of the biggest adjustments, for customers and vendors alike, has been the customers’ inability to touch their produce before they make their purchase. Communication between customer and vendor has proven invaluable.
Mathews believes that another reason for this year’s successful season is the Vantage Point team taking the pandemic seriously from the very beginning, putting safety protocols in place and sticking to them. Yet another might be the fact that there are no limits on the "double-up" specials for food assistance programs this year, due to the pandemic.
Four more Saturdays remain in the 2020 season. The final date is Saturday, Oct. 31, and Mathews says to expect some vendors to hand out Halloween candy as part of the city’s Halloween Stroll event.
"We made it through and we have four more markets left. I’m really happy that we could make it happen this year. The farmers benefited and the customers benefited. It’s been a win-win," Mathews says.
"I just want to tell people that it’s time to stock up before it’s gone."
The Vantage Point Farmers Market occurs each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Saturday, Oct. 31, at Vantage Point in downtown Port Huron.
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