If you’ve ever shopped at more than one farmers’ market, you’ve come to realize that no two are exactly the same—they are as diverse as varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Each market differs in its size, location, hours, vendor makeup, operating structure, and budget and each must be mindful of federal, state and local regulations. Every decision that’s made about that market likely takes all of these factors into account. There’s a lot to think about even in the best of times and this season is unprecedented for us. We realize that it’s entirely our responsibility to think about all of these things so that each week, you can enjoy the farmers’ market for what it is—a community-building event that supports Connecticut agricultural producers and local businesses. We support them so that they can bring fresh, locally produced goods directly to you. Just leave the hard parts to us!
In determining how—or even if—we would open this season, we had to approach each of the elements of running the market from a different angle. Knowing that a lot of planning would be required, we had to decide very early on, what would make sense for everyone involved. Customer, vendor and volunteer perspectives were considered. We also had to think about what would give us the best chance of opening and remaining open as conditions surrounding the spread of COVID-19 change. We knew that at times, it may be less severe and at other times, more severe. We simply had, and still have, no way of knowing the timing, levels of severity and types of restrictions that will be placed on us as a result.
While it’s true that most markets are held outdoors where there may be a decreased possibility of exposure, it’s still a major concern for some. Even though other businesses, including restaurants, may have decided to re-open in some form as guidelines are adjusted and restrictions are relaxed, you can be assured that each and every one of them has had to take that long list of things to think about into account. Each one has done their best to open in a way that makes sense for them. It's no different for farmers' markets. As customers, we should respect the decisions that were made to get them there and do our part to support them in their efforts in any way we feel comfortable doing so.
Markets in the Age of Coronavirus
Farmers’ markets across the country are doing what they can to open and that means you may be introduced to new ways of experiencing those markets. You might encounter terms like “drive through”, “online pre-order”, “staggered entry”, “socially distanced”, and more as market managers and staff find creative ways to get local food in the hands of customers. Because we’re headed into a period of warmer weather with relaxed safety measures, more and more businesses of all types are re-opening to customers. We understand. A business owner’s livelihood is greatly impacted by a prolonged shutdown and loyal customers are longing for a return to some sense of normalcy. A few of our customers have asked why we’re not opening in a “socially distanced” way that would allow them to shop in person and while the reasons are complicated, the answer is relatively simple: a “socially distanced” market is not at all like the farmers’ market you’re used to.
What a “Socially Distanced” Market Looks Like
Taking everything you’ve read so far into account, here’s how a socially distanced market would have to operate:
As you can see, even if we were open to customer traffic, this season’s market wouldn’t resemble a traditional market. It certainly wouldn’t look or feel the same for anyone involved.
How You Can Help
Unfortunately, in light of all that’s required of us, we can’t meet everyone’s expectations and an online pre-order/customer pickup model may not be what you’re looking for in a farmers’ market. We know it’s not ideal and frankly, it’s hurting us too. We’ll miss the social interaction. We’ll miss the music, the food, the laughter and the smiles. We’re also longing for a return to the way things were and if we’re patient and supportive, we’ll have it all back at some point in the future.
Until then, we hope that you’ll continue to shop with us. Farmers and vendors base their decision to participate in a market on how profitable it is for them to attend. If you don’t buy from them, they leave for other markets where hopefully, they can sell their products. Markets live and die by the support of their customers and we need you!
The market makes no money for itself, but it does need money to run. We’re completely self-funded through vendor fees and corporate donations. This season, we’re faced with a budget shortfall as we’ve had to invest in new signage, personal protective gear, sanitary facilities and software to run the market. We’ve provided a simple and convenient way for you to contribute and we hope that you’ll consider supporting our efforts by making a donation in any amount.
We’re grateful for your support, your patience and your understanding and we look forward to seeing you all when we return to the Monroe Town Green.
The market opens for online ordering on Monday, June 15 and the first pickup date for pre-orders is Friday, June 19, 2020.
The Monroe Farmers' Market is open June–October and offers fresh, locally-grown produce, baked goods, prepared foods and hand-crafted specialty foods to Connecticut locals.