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Farmers markets adjusting with COVID-19 to maintain safety

Osman Ruiz, then of Bautista Farms of Yakima County, lays out carrots at a Snohomish Farmers Market. Snohomish opens its season
May 7 at Stocker Farms’ site off of Highway 9 on Marsh Road. The Everett Farmers Market is jumping early with a May 3 opening day.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Farmers markets, with opening day just around the corner, are adjusting how they operate because of coronavirus restrictions.
Shoppers, it won’t be the usual affair to stroll and hand-pick your veggies. Market managers have to abide by COVID-19 physical distancing rules, and might call on people to keep moving. All will disallow touching the produce.
Don’t want to leave your car? Some markets will have curbside pickup.
The Everett Farmers Market is going to be drive-through-only for its opening weeks, co-manager Gary Purves said. Everett shoppers will have to pre-order their purchases through the market’s website and arrive by entering at Hewitt and Wetmore.
The Snohomish and Monroe markets will let people walk in, but shoppers will use one-way aisles and decide what food they want from a distance. No free sampling.
At the Monroe market, which opens in late May on Wednesdays, they’ll aim to make shopping easy and quick, Monroe chamber director Janelle Drews said.
The Sunday Everett Farmers Market kicks off May 3, one week earlier than its traditional Mother’s Day opening. It’s earlier to meet demand after mini-markets in February and March markets were canceled, Purves said.
The Thursday afternoon Snohomish Farmers Market relocated itself to allow vendors to be spaced apart. It’s going to happen in a field at Stocker Farms off of Highway 9 this year. Its season starts May 7.
Because there’s food, the markets are considered essential businesses. However, craft artisans won’t be in the markets. Musical acts? Nope. Managers don’t want people to crowd together.
The constant will be fresh food from local vendors.
Snohomish market manager Sarah Dylan Jensen said she anticipates 50 vendors for opening day.
Snohomish’s temporary move helps, because the market’s usual spot near the Carnegie Building downtown — which it’s returning to in 2021 — could have required turning away vendors.
The aisles are going to be 20 to 25 feet apart, and the vendors are going to be in a large horseshoe-style half-circle.
People buying food with SNAP food stamp benefits at the Everett market would get out of their cars to buy paper scrip at the market information booth, Purves said. Snohomish will use tokens that will be sanitized, Dylan Jensen said.
The Monroe Farmers Market, which happens on alternating Wednesdays, opens May 27 in the parking lot at Galaxy Theatres on N. Kelsey Street. Monroe’s going to hold a senior hour each market day starting at 2:30 p.m., Drews said.
State rules forced markets to brainstorm and adjust. Snohomish will allow both cash and cashless transactions, but asks for people to bring exact change for cash. People may be asked to bag their own purchases.
To have pre-orders, Everett is developing a virtual storefront at its website, www.  
People driving into the Everett market will be asked to stay in their car and have vendors load the groceries.
“This is not an event, not a place to socialize, this is a place to pick up your groceries,” Purves said.
The restrictions have taken a toll, however, market managers report the interest in going to the farmers market is strong.
“People have been calling saying they look forward to coming — it’s been 100 percent positive,” Dylan Jensen said. “That’s what’s keeping me going.”
The managers who have their vendor lists developed say that many regular of their farmers are returning. But the other half of a modern market, craft and flower sellers, are being excluded because these are non-essential businesses as of press time.
The reduction means Snohomish’s market budget is down 40 percent. Monroe’s market is seeing almost half of its vendors not be able to participate. Its opening day might have about 20, instead of the usual 40 vendors, Drews said.
It’s given market managers pause on waiting to see if some restrictions are lifted.
Everett’s market managers, for example, are still deciding an opening day for the Wednesday market it usually starts in June at Everett Station — that space can’t facilitate a drive-through system easily, Purves said.
In Snohomish, they don’t mean to push, but if people linger, “it could jeopardize the market into summer,” Dylan Jensen said.
Market managers want people to know that the public’s health and safety is the priority, albeit there’s also a big rulebook of new health guidelines the markets need to follow to be licensed operations.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through our first pandemic,” Dylan Jensen said.



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