Greenfield Farmers Market to open Saturday, with changes
The Greenfield Recorder, April 29, 2020, By ANITA FRITZ, Staff Writer
Typically at this time of the year, organizers of farmers markets are ramping up their plans and preparing to open, as the Greenfield Farmers Market will do on Saturday. But the COVID-19 pandemic will change the way things are done at the markets, and some might not open at all this year.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) Communications Director Claire Morenon said the Greenfield Farmers Market is opening Saturday at 8 a.m. and the Great Falls Farmers Market in Turners Falls is talking about opening soon, but those and every other market throughout the county will make their own decisions on whether to do so.
“When Gov. (Charlie) Baker closed non-essential businesses, he said farmers markets would be considered essential,” Morenon said. “Each just has to work with their respective cities and towns to figure out how.”
The Greenfield Farmers Market next to the Greenfield Common, for instance, has mapped out where people will enter and exit, how they will move from table to table and how food will be disbursed, said market president David Paysnick, owner of Rainbow Harvest Farm in Greenfield, a vendor that sells plants and produce at the market.
“We’re going to make things as safe as possible,” Paysnick said. “It will be at least as safe as a grocery store, probably safer.”
Paysnick said customers will wash their hands at a hand-washing station and wear face masks, and then they will be guided through the market. He said volunteers and organizers will be there to help and make sure social distancing is practiced.
To limit contact with the produce, Paysnick said vendors will be the only people to handle all food. There will be tables in front of tents to keep customers 6 feet from vendors. Customers will tell vendors what they want and vendors will bag the food.
The biggest change this year will be the absence of musicians, entertainment and craftspeople that have helped some farmers markets, like Greenfield, evolve into more than just markets.
“We’re going to miss them this year, but it has to be,” Pa y s n i c k said.
Morenon said it’s beneficial that some markets will open, because there are customers who use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps, who also receive Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) benefits, which is an added benefit, allowing them to get more food for their dollars.
“Some farmers markets won’t open, so the farms will be selling their products online,” Morenon said. “The problem is, some people can’t get to the farms to pick up, because they don’t have transportation. And, some people don’t have internet, so they can’t even order. That’s why it’s so good for Greenfield Farmers Market and others to open.”
Great Falls Farmers Market
The Montague Board of Health recently approved the opening of the Great Falls Farmers Market in Peskeomskut Park on Avenue A this year.
Market manager Annie Levine, who is running it with the help of Suzanne LoManto, head of Turners Falls River-Culture, said they are still in discussions about the details, including when they’ll open. She said she believes it will be the last week of May or first week of June.
“Normally, we open the first Wednesday in May, but we a r e n’t ready for that,” Levine said. “We need time to get a plan in place that makes sure everyone is as safe as possible.”
Levine said she expects this year’s farmers market will “look very different.” She said they decided to open because it is an essential resource, especially for people on SNAP and HIP.
“Most of them don’t have cars or access to fresh food and we provide that — and they can walk to the park,” she said. “We really focus on serving folks who need food.”
Levine said she, LoManto and others will be discussing how many volunteers they will need at the market each week, and how they can help direct customers and make sure they are following safety protocols, such as wearing masks.
“This isn’t going to be the year of social gathering,” she said. “That’s what people like to do, but it doesn’t work right now.”
Levine said they are considering taking orders in advance, so customers can pick up their orders without a lot of contact. Once it opens, Levine anticipates the market will be open every Wednesday from 2 to 6 p.m. in the park near Food City — but that could change depending on where everything is in another month.
“We have four to five vendors most times, sometimes more,” she said. “It appears they will all be there selling their produce, as will Dry Brook Garden, which will be selling flowers.”
To ensure safety, Levine said the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources released guidelines for opening farmers markets during the pandemic.
Morenon said CISA is happy to see markets planning to open, because organizers have worked really hard to establish them as not just places to buy produce and other items, but destinations.
“They’ve really become gathering places,” she said. “It won’t be the same this year, but at least it’s something. People can shop outside and that’s a good thing.” Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or firstname.lastname@example.org.