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Safety Protocols for Farmers’ Markets During COVID-19

written by Stephanie Armstrong (SFUSA policy Intern), Ed Yowell (SFUSA policy Chair) and the SFUSA Food and Farm Policy Working Group

Farmers markets are a vital part of local farm and food economies, yet state and local policy on farmers market operation during the onslaught of Covid-19 is inconsistent.  A dozen states have declared them “essential” but a majority have not offered concrete guidance on their operation.

The Brookings Institute declares, “Some places are now realizing the importance of these services [provided by farmers markets] during crisis, particularly for vulnerable communities. In New York City, the epicenter of the American outbreak, the extensive farmers market system is bringing food to every borough, with new precautions.”

New York City’s Greenmarket, a program of not-for-profit GrowNYC, is the largest network of urban farmers markets in the nation.  In response to the pandemic, Greenmarket established an emergency operation protocol that supports the safe, continued availability of fresh, local food for New York City residents and access to an important market for small and mid-scale, direct marketing, family farmers.

If your community is trying to open a farmers market this spring or to reopen a closed market, these protocols from GrowNYC may help.  (For more visit https://www.grownyc.org/blog/greenmarkets-are-open)

At Market

  • Dramatically increasing the footprint of our markets to allow for shoppers to be able to maintain a healthy physical distance between each other
  • Adding additional chalk//tape lines to keep shoppers at least six feet apart
  • Requiring all market shoppers, staff, and Producers to wear a face-covering
  • Assigning additional GrowNYC staff on the ground to regulate customer flow and ensure physical distancing
  • Only Producers and their staff may handle products. Customers must not touch any produce or products until after they have purchased
  • Market staff will separate farm stand spaces with at least 10 feet of distance between the tents, more where possible, to reduce congestion

For Producers

Effective immediately, we are requiring all Producers to be set up and ready to sell by 8am sharp to help facilitate crowd control, no exception.

  • There is no sampling of products at markets until further notice
  • There is no selling of apple cider by the cup
  • All Producers must wear protective gloves
  • All Producers to wear face covering
  • All farm stands must use vinyl or plastic table covers for easy sanitizing
  • All Producers need to be sanitizing their stands regularly and wiping down tables, terminals, cash boxes, etc.
  • Reminder notices to farmers about proper food handling will be provided
  • All GrowNYC staff and Producers must stay home if they are sick
  • All staff processing credit/debit/snap transactions must wear protective gloves
  • Help to maintain proper spacing in your lines at market; if you see customers bunching and not adhering to space delineators please instruct them to space out by at least 6 feet. 
  • We will provide additional hand sanitizers at our market manager stations

For Shoppers

We encourage you to protect yourselves, your fellow shoppers, and our Producers and their employees. 

  • Maintain a 6′ distance between yourself, Greenmarket staff, farm stand employees, and other customers
  • If you are sick, stay home
  • Do not pick up any products or produce at the farm stands, ask an employee to help you
  • If you sneeze or cough, do so only into a tissue (and immediately dispose of it) or into the crease of your elbow
  • Thoroughly wash your hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds
  • If hand washing is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Wash all produce thoroughly before using it
  • Regularly wash your reusable produce bags
  • Be patient, and kind–we’re all in this together