Farmers Markets Respond to COVID-19 — Best Practices, Examples, and Resources

      Posted On: March 18, 2020

As concerns about the spread of COVID-19 grow, farmers market operators are wondering how best to respond. Markets are grappling with their role as public gatherings that are vital to food access for consumers and the livelihoods of farmers.

In response, market operators are developing communications, preparing contingency plans, and in some regions, beginning to modify operations and considering closures. To offer a point of reference for our members, we have compiled information and advice from farmers markets, state associations, health departments and the Centers for Disease Control. Given the hyper-local nature of farmers markets, the needs of one community may be vastly different from that of another. We recommend keeping up to date on your community’s status through your local public health departments. The actions that you take should be predicated on the situation locally.

 We’ve collected quotes, pictures, links, and best practices from market organizations around the country and how they are mitigating exposure while still providing healthy food to residents. Visit our Daily Updates and Announcements page for up to date responses from state ag departments and news. 

WEBINAR: Farmers Markets Physical Redesign for COVID-19 Mitigation

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Step 1 of 2

Stay Informed

Farmers market operators should consult their local health departments for up to date details in their community. Read the updates and recommendations available on their website and sign up for any alerts being offered by local or county-level health officials. The CDC has issued interim guidance for large public gatherings with useful steps. Highlights include:

    • Establish relationships with key community partners and stakeholders such as local health departments and collaborate with them on broader planning efforts.
    • Promote the daily practice of everyday preventive actions. Use health messages and materials developed by credible public health sources such as your local public health department or CDC to encourage your event staff and participants to practice good personal health habits.
    • Provide prevention supplies at your events. Plan to have extra supplies on hand for event staff and participants, including sinks with soap, hand sanitizers, tissues.
    • Discourage people who are sick from attending.
    • Identify actions to take if you need to postpone or cancel.
    • Some cities and states have declared states of emergency in response to COVID-19. While a state of emergency sounds concerning, it is primarily a procedural step that allows state and local health officials to access additional resources for identifying, treating and preventing the spread of the disease.

 

New CDC Guidance for daily life during the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

 

Find daily updates about COVID-19’s effect on the farmers market sector in this post.

 

 

Market Operations

Market leaders and stakeholders should discuss options like the ones below to mitigate exposure and outbreak risks. It might not be necessary for your market to take all of these steps immediately, but you should be determining at what point your market will begin to implement operational changes.

  • Consider limiting demos and samples to decrease opportunities for cross-contamination
  • Suspend penalties for last-minute vendor cancellations
  • Invite local health departments to attend market days for educational opportunities.
  • Follow simple CDC rules for washing hands and not touching faces. Add additional handwashing facilities for vendors and customers. Have signs posted as a reminder.
  • Make sanitary gloves required for market staff who handle money, tokens, or vouchers and remind staff about handwashing procedures.
  • CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. CDC is advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.
  • If it seems right to stay open in your area, being really proactive on social media, with signs at the market, etc. about what you ARE doing.
  • Create an outline to show what 6-foot social distancing space is.
  • Redesign layout to increase social space: i.e. “no squares within square layout”, even an “L” shape or a single row, rather than parallel rows.
  • Move the welcome booth to front; add fences and ropes with signs that state you are allowing 50 or fewer people in at any one time. 
  • For markets that are required to close, consider temporarily redesigning market locations to allow for pre-ordered items to be picked up at the usual market times or other alternative distribution methods.

 

Market Resources

State and Local Preparedness Plans/Templates

Market Guidelines/Toolkits (listed alphabetically)

Market Signage

Other Resources

Farmer Resources

Webinars

FMC

Thinking Inside the Box – Making Healthy Food Accessible with Curbside/Drive-Thru (Contactless) Models at Farmers Markets During COVID-19

Recorded on Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

Presenters

Farmers Market Leaders! Remember when everyone was talking about alternative delivery models and how to reduce contact at farmers markets? Let’s bring that conversation back!

Are you interested in learning to operate a curbside/drive-thru (contactless) model at your market? COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of farmers’ market operations. From wearing masks to social distancing, keeping shoppers and vendors safe has created new opportunities for innovation.

“Box programs” or curbside/drive-thru models have popped up across the nation to provide small and mid-sized farmers with an additional opportunity to sell their products and continuing to elevate farmers markets and make healthy food accessible to communities.

Largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers market customers – including those in COVID-19 high-risk groups – are looking for lower-touch options.

In this webinar, market operators using this model will present on:

How to run a curbside/drive-thru (contactless) model in a farmers’ market, including offering SNAP/EBT payment and nutrition incentives (the match provided on SNAP benefits).

Participants will also get knowledge on best practices for:
Logistics and operations
Securing funding and staffing/volunteers
Compliance with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines

Attendees will leave this webinar feeling inspired and supported to run your own box program, or with a better understanding of how viable the program may be for your market.

Click the image below for the recording of the webinar.

Access presentation slides here.
Webinar Q&A

Min: 09:55 Land Acknowledgement/ Essential Workers Acknowledgement
Min: 18:00 About the Nutrition Hub
Min: 19:30 Presenter line-up
Min: 20:40 Presenter #1, Cristina Berthelot, Crescent City Farmers Market, New Orleans, LA
Min: 35:32 Presenter #2, Angie Warkentin, Visalia Farmers Marker Åssociation, Visalia, CA
Min: 51:48 Presenter #3, Megan Kenney, North Coast Growers Åssociation, Arcata, CA
Min: 1:06:05 Presenter #4, Ruth Arhelger, Rochester Farmers Market, Rochester, MN
Min: 1:18:37 Presenter Q and A

____________________________________________________________________________

Farmers Markets Physical Redesign for COVID-19 Mitigation
Recorded on Monday, April 6th, 2020

As always, farmers market operators are among those leading for how local food is meeting this historic moment including “drive-thru” models, delayed entry, pre-bagged goods. new layouts and more. For this webinar, market operators shared how they actually implemented a new COVID-19 practice, and ONLY covered the physical redesign of market spaces. It did not cover online platforms that some market leaders are using to build new, off-site purchasing systems; that topic will be covered in future webinars.


Panelists:

Darlene Wolnik
Training and Technical Assistance Director
Farmers Market Coalition

Ben Feldman
Executive Director
Farmers Market Coalition

David Kotsonas
Director of Operations for the St Paul Growers Association and St Paul Farmers Market, St. Paul, MN

Corrina Rhea Smith
Executive Director of Columbia Farmers Market, Columbia MO

Martha Archer
Executive Director of Mill City Farmers Market Minneapolis, MN

Leigh Sloss-Corra
Market at Pepper Place,  Birmingham, AL

Jess Joyce
Market Manager of Rochester Farmers Markets,  Rochester, MN

Christie Welch
Ohio State University Direct Marketing Specialist, OH

Market operators should also fill out the survey with questions and comments about market redesign during the COVID-19 mitigation.

 

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Farmers Market-Tested Sales Platforms for Shopper Pre-Orders
Recorded on Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

This webinar focused on market-level platforms (either a sales platform or through listing vendor sites on the market website) that allow shoppers to place pre-orders to then be picked up at either a drive-through or walk-through market where vendors are required to be on-site to hand off their goods. (In some cases, these markets may also be allowing sales for some walk-in customers and may also be handling SNAP sales at their booth.)

Market leaders who have been using systems using platforms such as Google Forms, Local Food Marketplace, LocalLine, SquareSpace, What’s Good among others will be presenting.

Panelists:

Darlene Wolnik
Training and Technical Assistance Director
Farmers Market Coalition

Ben Feldman
Executive Director
Farmers Market Coalition

Nelson Li
Market Manager
Metuchen Farmers Market, NJ

Erin Molnar
Director of Local Food Program
Countryside, OH

Rachel Beyer
Local Food Coordinator
City of Blooimington, IN

Leigh Sloss-Corra
Director of The Market at Pepper Place,  Birmingham, AL

Martha Archer
Executive Director of Mill City Farmers Market Minneapolis, MN

Jackie Hammond-Williams
Market Manager
Oregon City Farmers Market, OR

Watch the full recording online.

Q&A

Presentations

Partner Organizations

Illinois Winter Farmers Markets During COVID-19 – Next Steps
Recorded on Monday, September 28th, 2020
Related resources

Farmers Market Fund: DUFB Webinar – Why (and How) to Cultivate Relationships with your Elected Leaders
Recorded on Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
Related resources

Food safety document development for small food processors, killing two birds with one stone: FSMA compliance & COVID-19 preparedness
Recorded on Monday, July 13th, 2020
Related resources

WSFMA: New Day, New Way: Farmers Markets and COVID-19
Recorded on Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Related resources

Cornell Extension and Farmers Market Federation of NY: Farmers’ Market Managers Open Forum – Developing a Safety Plan
Recorded on Friday, June 19th, 2020
Related resources

University of Missouri Extension: Choosing an Online Platform & Selling Online: 4 Missouri Farmers Share their Success Stories – June 15, 2020 
Recorded on Monday, June 15th, 2020
Related resources                                                                                        

VAFMA: Farmers Selling Online – Choosing a Platform
Recorded on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
Related resources

Farm Commons, Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, Farmers Market Coalition, and the Food Liability Insurance Program – Pickup and Order Options at Farmers Market: Create Resilience, Not Legal Vulnerability
Recorded on Thursday, May 21st, 2020
Related resources

UNH Extension – Best Management Practices for Farmers Markets: Thinking through Operations during a Pandemic and Beyond
Recorded on Monday, May 18th, 2020
Related resources

ILFMA: Re-Envisioning Farmers Markets for the 2020 Season (recording not available)
Recorded on Friday, May 15th, 2020
Related resources

ILFMA: Market Manager Insights – Setting Up Your Farmers Market during COVID-19
Recorded on Wednesday, May 13th, 2020
Related resources

Appalachian Regional Commission
Recorded on Thursday, May 7th, 2020
Related resources

ILFMA: 10 Tips for Marketing Your Farmers Market During COVID-19
Recorded on Wednesday, May 6th, 2020
Related resources

West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum: Resiliency of Farms and Farmers Markets During and After COVID-19
Recorded on Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 (password = 4C!b&1w6)
Related resources

CA Market Match Consortium & CA Alliance of Farmers’ Markets: Curbside/Drive-Thru Models
Recorded on Monday, May 4th, 2020
Related resources

Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets: Webinar on Vendor Practices during Covid-19
Recorded on Monday, May 1st, 2020
Related resources

Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative: COVID-19 Update and Impacts: Business, Conservation, & Infrastructure
Recorded on Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
Related resources

ILFMA: Farmers Markets During COVID-19
Recorded on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020
Related resources

VAFMA: Getting Your Market Open & Keeping it Open During COVID 19
Recorded on Friday, April 17th, 2020
Related resources

CA Alliance of Farmers’ Markets: Practices at Market in Response to COVID-19
Recorded on Monday, April 13th, 2020
Related resources

OSU webinar on Drive-thru Farmers Market model in Ohio and NV
Recorded on Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
Related resources

PennState Extension: Ramp Up Your Online Ordering for Expanded Delivery or Curb-Side Pickup
Recorded on Monday, March 23rd, 2020
Related resources

PASA Webinar, COVID-19 Guidelines for Farmers & Markets
Recorded on Friday, March 20th, 2020
Related resources

Upcoming

VAFMA: Infectious Disease Training for Farmers Markets

Tuesday, November 10th (6pm-10pm ET)

To clear up confusion about Virginia’s new Infectious Disease standards for farmers markets: All businesses of all sizes — even with only one staff member, paid or non-paid — must have COVID-19 training and certification.

In addition, medium risk businesses with 11 or more employees must have an Infectious Disease Plan. All agricultural businesses are deemed medium risk. ALL farmers market and ALL vendors selling at farmers markets are considered agricultural businesses and therefor are ALL considered medium risk.

Through the VAFMA training on November 10th, you will receive a certification verifying that you have met the state’s training requirement. You’ll also be trained on how to train and certify your employees.

In addition, you’ll receive an infectious disease plan template along with training on how to customize it to fit your business. You will also receive a link to a recording of the training.

Videos/Web Series

 

 

Photos of new procedures at markets

 

Handwashing:

Handwashing station at Columbia Farmers Market – Columbia, MO

CCFM-New Orleans rented hand washing stations

Hand wash station – St. Paul Farmers’ Market, MN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Distancing:

Measuring 6′ distance markers at Winter FM – Boone, NC

Hollywood Farmers Market – Portland, OR

Counting customers entering market – Columbia FM, MO

Social distancing sign – Mill City FM, MN

Safe payment – Berkeley Farmers Market, CA

 

 

 

Applying 6′ separation at Holly Springs FM, NC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Market Signage:

COVID-19 Rules at Winter Farmers’ Market – Boone, NC

Vendor sign at Winter Farmers’ Market – Boone, NC

Restricted exit sign at Columbia Farmers Market – Columbia, MO

 

 

 

 

 

 

Market rules – Berkeley Farmers Market, CA

Gate sign – Columbia Farmers Market, MO

Washington State Dept of Health Shop Safely at Your Farmers Market Sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFMA COVID graphic grid red.jpg

Alaska Farmland Trust – Shop Safe & Local

Growers-Crafters Market – Rogue Valley, OR

Utah Farmers Markets – New Shopping Etiquette

Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets – Coronavirus Banner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food pun signs at Moore Square Market – Raleigh, NC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curbside Pickup/Drive-thru Models:

Curbside pickup table at Columbia Farmers Market – Columbia, MO

Countryside Pick-up Model Market Diagram

Vendor Pick-up Model, Sunshine Harvest Farm, Mill City FM Minneapolis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hillsdale Farmers Market – Portland, OR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Market layout/maps:

Aerial diagram of new layout for Holly Springs FM in Holly Springs, NC

All vendors set up on single side to aid social distancing at Holly Springs FM in Holly Springs, NC

Single line of vendors – Belmont Farmers Market, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distanced vendors, handwash stations – Oregon City FM, OR

Indoor/drive-thru market layout diagram – Rochester FM, MN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washington State Farmers Market Association: Photo Gallery of Safe Farmers Market

 

Communications with vendors

  • Remind vendors of sanitary methods for handling money and food, and sampling. The FMC resource library has examples including the one from the Marin Farmers Market Association
  • Growing For Market’s latest issue has Covid-19 coverage on how farmers can safeguard themselves. The cover story is available without a subscription.
  • Communicate about changes to market procedures. Consider setting up a phone or text tree to get information out as quickly as possible to all vendors.
  • Plan with vendors how the market will determine if it is appropriate to close and any alternative sales method that may be available. Share planned closure communication strategy and channels in advance. 
  • Prepare vendors for the possibility of smaller crowds at market.

Vendor Guidelines

Examples

  • No Samples
  • No exposed food; everything needs to be covered or packaged
  • No items on tables that are out of reach of vendors to reduce customers from touching products.
  • Set up tables with you and your registers at the front of your space, then have food/products behind you. The point is to keep people from touching any products, and the only way to do that successfully is to have zero product upfront and in customers’ reach. Ask customers to tell you what they want, and you get the products for them.
  • Set all products on tables rather than in crates or boxes.
  • Put less out, restock more. (Put signs up saying there is more in back.)
  • Minimize cash transactions
  • Wipe down card readers between transactions.
  • Create a 3-foot barrier between your tables and customer lines. 
  • Implement sneeze guards or ropes for all tables.
  • Chalkboard product lists are strongly encouraged so that customers know what you have – since they won’t see your product spread as they normally would.
  • Wash hands all the time.

Vendor Communication Resources

Holly Springs Farmers Market - Sampling

Holly Springs Farmers Market

We are permitting the vendors to pass out pre-packaged samples for customers to try at home. While it may not help with sales on the day they’re distributed, the hope is that customers will return the following week to purchase. Below is a graphic we created to demonstrate to vendors what is okay.

Charlottesville City Market To-Go

Charlottesville City Market To-Go

Ground rules for safety at the market:
  • Stay home if you or a member of your household is ill. We can issue refunds.
  • Only essential personnel is permitted at the market.
  • All vendors must wear gloves and a face mask (fabric is acceptable).
  • Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.
  • Have a disinfectant solution ready at your booth to periodically disinfect surfaces.
  • Wash your hands as often as you can. There will be two hand washing stations at the market.
  • No chit chat is allowed with customers. The least amount of contact is vital for everyone’s safety. A pleasant wave or nod of acknowledgement is fine.
There is ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY for violating these guidelines.
Packing your orders:
All orders must be packaged and labeled with customer’s names:
  1. Select “Admin” from the top of the Lulus page.
  2. Select “Delivery Sales Report”
  3. Select a Pickup Location and Date. The click “Search.”
  4. This will give you a break down of an item and the customer it goes to at which quantity.
  5. To display individual customer order click the “Group by Customer” – this will be the easiest to be able to pack your orders. Customers are sorted alphabetically. For a printable version, click “Download Data” below the Pickup Location.
  6. Before you start packing an order write/print the customer name on the bag/box where it can be seen easily when you pack your vehicle. For extra detail write/print their full order on the bag/box.
  7. Begin packing the customers order. If you have items that will not fit in the bag/box call out the item so that it can be noticed easily (a piece of colored tape for example) when you select it at the market.
  8. Keep your orders in alphabetical order as you complete an order.
Tip: Here is a way to print order labels easily:
Packing your vehicle:
Once you have you your orders filled and organized alphabetically you can begin loading your vehicle.
It is strongly recommended that you organize your vehicle alphabetically.
I have received requests from vendors to send out a list with customers pickup times which I will send out shortly. In talks with other vendors that have participated in drive thru markets, they no not recommend organizing by time slot. Customers are not guaranteed to arrive when they said they would.
Market setup:
  • Vendors will be organized alphabetically and spaced at least 8′ apart.
  • Vendors will park across multiple parking spaces parallel to traffic.
  • Vendors may set up a 10′ x 10′ tent behind their vehicle with a table for staging orders.
  • Vendors will have a pull in loading zone adjacent to their vehicles.
  • As customers arrive to pickup their order from you they will pull into to your loading zone with their trunks already open for you place their order into.

Marin Farmers Market Handwashing and Sampling Requirements

Marin Farmers Market Handwashing and Sampling Requirements

Agricultural Institute of Marin COVID-19 Guidance Videos

Bloomfield Saturday Market - Pittsburgh, PA

 

 

Communications with customers/media/the public

Farmers market operators and supporters should make the case for markets to remain open wherever possible. Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food access, not just a social gathering. While markets may need to close in extreme circumstances such closures could be disastrous for both farmers and the shoppers who rely on the market. 

Guidelines for Customers

Examples

Bloomfield Saturday Market: Pittsburgh, PA

● Wash your reusable bag before coming to the market.
● Highly discourage dogs at the market.
● Wear a mask.
● Encourage 1 person per household.
● Waiting patiently if a line occurs while waiting to enter the market. We have ensured in our site plan that there will be a proper amount of social distancing (at least 6 feet) between each customer while they wait.
● Understanding our one-in-and-one-out-policy to ensure a maximum of 10 people shopping in the market at once.
● Adhering to 6-foot social distancing while in the farmers’ market. Give space to those around you, at least 6 feet while shopping and waiting in line.
● Observing posted signage and demarcated lines, which signal where customers should wait, six feet apart, to order and pay for their products.
● When purchasing a product form a vendor, please step back from the table to give the vendor space to place your purchased goods on the table. Once the vendor has stepped back into their social distance space, you may approach the table to collect your goods.
● Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (located near the info tent)

● Those who are high-risk (elderly and people with underlying health conditions) avoid coming to the market. Help your neighbors who need to remain indoors, by offering to pick up food and supplies at the market for them.
● As always, wash fruits and veggies when you return home.
● Cough or sneeze into your arm or a tissue, away from people and food.
● Always stay home if you are sick.

 

Illinois Farmers Market Association

-Maintain a 6′ distance between yourself, vendor employees, and other customers
-If you are sick, stay home.
-This is not a family event.
-Limit attendance to one member of the household.
-Pre-order products where possible to speed up transaction process.
-Use credit and debit cards for purchasesIf cash is used, do not expect change.
-Do not pick up any products or produce at vendor stands, ask staff to help youIf you prefer a reusable bag, you will need to place purchases in your bag yourself. It will not be filled by vendors. At home, regularly wash your reusable bags.
-If you sneeze or cough, do so only into a tissue (and immediately dispose of it) or into the crease of your elbow.
-Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
-Thoroughly wash your hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds according to the CDC Guidelines.
-If hand washing is not available, use a CDC approved hand sanitizer, either 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol.
-At home, wash all products thoroughly before using.
-Be patient, and kind – we’re all in this together.

Communications with Customers/Media/Public

Resources

Newsletter: Farmers Market at St. Stephen’s – Richmond, VA

California Alliance of Farmers Markets Letter to Secretary Ross

New Orleans market email

What’s Different at Markets

We are taking safety precautions at markets that are much more stringent than any of our staff has seen at local grocery stores. Not only do markets not have conveyor belts or public surfaces similar to grocery stores, but there’s shoulder room and limited physical interaction with products, not to mention plenty of fresh air. For the time being, we’ll be eliminating beverage service at the welcome tent and also not setting up public seating. We will be limiting the number of customers in the market at any given time (which will facilitate social distancing and expedite shopping), and changing configurations to maintain social distance – vendors will be placed further apart from one another, isles will be made wider, chalk marks on the ground will indicate a six-foot distance from vendor tables and the welcome tent table, as well as spacing for those waiting in line to enter. While we normally value community, now is time to stock up on healthful food and head home

 

 

Communications within the industry

  • We encourage markets to support and update each other by sharing resources, ideas, and examples of communications via the FMC listserv 

 

 

More Resources:

 

CDC: New Considerations for Outdoor Farmers Markets (September 2020)

Payment Protection Program Loans (PPP) FAQs

AMS Grants Division Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

What to Do if You Have COVID-19 Confirmed Positive or Exposed Workers in Your Food Production, Storage, or Distribution Operations Regulated by FDA

CISA Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers

What Grocery and Food Retail Workers Need to Know about COVID-19

Use of Respirators, Facemasks, and Cloth Face Coverings in the Food and Agriculture Sector During Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Get Your Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events Ready for Coronavirus Disease 2019

Handwashing Guidelines