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.
Please contact FMC to share any images, links, or information that we can add to this post.
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.
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.
- Alaska: COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR FARMERS MARKETS
- Homer, Alaska Farmers Market: COVID19 Guidelines
- California Alliance of Farmers’ Markets COVID19 Farmers’ Market Response and Best Practices
- Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Advocacy Toolkit
- Columbia Farmers Market, Columbia MO new procedures for customers/public, for vendors, and a vendor product and resource list for customers
- Future Harvests Safety Protocols For Food Distribution & Purchases (includes employee safety protocols and suggestions)
- Illinois Farmers Market Association COVID-19 Toolkit
- Michigan Farmers Markets Responding to COVID-19 (includes formula for determining maximum number of market customers)
- Oregon Farmers Market Association COVID 19 Resources
- Oxford Community Market: Farmers Markets During Crisis
- PA Dept of Agriculture COVID-19 Guidance: Farmers Markets & On-Farm Markets
- Penn State Extension and PASA: COVID-19 Guidelines for Farmers Markets (Checklist)
- Perdue Extension – FOOD: A Guide for Farmers’ Markets to Navigate the COVID-19 Outbreak
- Safe Supply Field Guide
- Slow Food USA: SAFETY PROTOCOLS FOR FARMERS’ MARKETS DURING COVID-19
- Texas Farmers Market: How To Shop The Farmers’ Market During COVID-19
- Utah Farmers Market Network: COVID19 Response and Best Practices Guide
- COVID-19 and Virginia’s Farmers Markets Protocols
- Virginia’s Farmers Markets and SNAP/EBT during COVID-19
- WSFMA Market Guidance
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: COVID-19 Social Distancing Signage for Use at Farmers Markets
- Alaska Farmland Trust and Alaska Farmers Markets: Shop Safe & Local
- ILFMA: Staying Safe During COVID-19 Booth Sign
- Oregon Health Authority: OHA Guidance, Signage and Rules
- WSFMA Signage for Safe Market Operations
- MIFMA: How to Clean SNAP Tokens
- Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Food for Thought: PROCEDURES FOR SANITIZATION AND DIAGNOSED EMPLOYEES
- New Orleans drive-thru farmers market report for 4/05/2020
- Red Stick Farmers Market in Baton Rouge LA info for shoppers from March 31 on their pick up model
- Saratoga FM spreadsheet for vendor purchase options
- Farmers’ Legal Action Group COVID-19 Guide
- RAFI-USA COVID-19 Response & Resources
- Farmer’s Guide to Direct Sales Software Platforms
- Farm Aid Farmer Resource Network
- National Young Farmers Coalition COVID-19 Resources
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition COVID-Resources
- Coronavirus and USDA Assistance for Farmers
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.
Training and Technical Assistance Director
Farmers Market Coalition
Farmers Market Coalition
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
Executive Director of Mill City Farmers Market Minneapolis, MN
Market at Pepper Place, Birmingham, AL
Market Manager of Rochester Farmers Markets, Rochester, MN
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.
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.
Training and Technical Assistance Director
Farmers Market Coalition
Farmers Market Coalition
Metuchen Farmers Market, NJ
Director of Local Food Program
Local Food Coordinator
City of Blooimington, IN
Director of The Market at Pepper Place, Birmingham, AL
Executive Director of Mill City Farmers Market Minneapolis, MN
Oregon City Farmers Market, OR
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
UNH Extension – Best Management Practices for Farmers Markets: Thinking through Operations during a Pandemic and Beyond
Recorded on Monday, May 18th, 2020
ILFMA: Re-Envisioning Farmers Markets for the 2020 Season (recording not available)
Recorded on Friday, May 15th, 2020
ILFMA: Market Manager Insights – Setting Up Your Farmers Market during COVID-19
Recorded on Wednesday, May 13th, 2020
ILFMA: 10 Tips for Marketing Your Farmers Market During COVID-19
Recorded on Wednesday, May 6th, 2020
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)
CA Market Match Consortium & CA Alliance of Farmers’ Markets: Curbside/Drive-Thru Models
Recorded on Monday, May 4th, 2020
VAFMA: Getting Your Market Open & Keeping it Open During COVID 19
Recorded on Friday, April 17th, 2020
CA Alliance of Farmers’ Markets: Practices at Market in Response to COVID-19
Recorded on Monday, April 13th, 2020
OSU webinar on Drive-thru Farmers Market model in Ohio and NV
Recorded on Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
PennState Extension: Ramp Up Your Online Ordering for Expanded Delivery or Curb-Side Pickup
Recorded on Monday, March 23rd, 2020
PASA Webinar, COVID-19 Guidelines for Farmers & Markets
Recorded on Friday, March 20th, 2020
VAFMA: Farmers Selling Online – Choosing a Platform – June 2, 2020
This 90-minute webinar is for farmers who want to add an online store or online pre-ordering system to their operations. It will provide practical details about 4 different platforms — Google Forms, Square, Lulus Local Food and Local Line via Virginia Market Maker. It will also cover what to consider before choosing a platform. Register here.
- Video of CCFM in New Orleans limiting entry
Photos of new procedures at markets
Curbside Pickup/Drive-thru Models:
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.
- 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
- 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.
- Select “Admin” from the top of the Lulus page.
- Select “Delivery Sales Report”
- Select a Pickup Location and Date. The click “Search.”
- This will give you a break down of an item and the customer it goes to at which quantity.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Keep your orders in alphabetical order as you complete an order.
- 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.
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.
- Think about updating images on websites/social media to emphasize “safe markets”; visually demonstrating social distancing and other public safety measures. For now, consider removing crowded/festive market imagery from public communications.
- CUESA article published also on Civil Eats
- Provide customers with relevant, up-to-date information without alarming them unduly.
- Emphasize that protecting public health is paramount to your market and describe any changes to market procedures to prevent the spread of infection. The virus is thought to be spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can be killed using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Stringent cleaning and disinfecting procedures around the market and food safety protocols can help decrease opportunities for viral transmission. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety.
- Farmers markets may offer advantages over other outlets. Vitamin D has been shown to help the body fight colds and flu, time outdoors can help boost the immune system, and studies have shown that fresher produce has more nutrients.
- Some public officials are recommending people have supplies on hand in the event that they become sick or quarantines are put in effect. For customers who feel the need to stock up on food products, encourage them to do so at the farmers market. Emphasize items that store well and prepared meals that can be frozen.
- If markets do need to close, ensure that customers and vendors know that the market will be closed as early and through as many channels as possible.
Guidelines for Customers
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
Newsletter: Farmers Market at St. Stephen’s – Richmond, VA
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