FARMINGTON —The Farmington farmers market reopened for the season on Friday and Saturday, May 23 and 24, with vendors fully masked describing products, stowed safely away in order to minimize contact, to customers eager for local produce.

“Our setup is different. We’re trying to use surfaces that we can clean easily. We’re trying to set up the tables so we can do social distancing better. And I made sure that I had sanitizer and then wipes to wipe the tables down,” Ruth Nile of Cedar Post Farm in Industry said.

Farmers and vendors met over several Zoom meetings leading up to the market’s reopening to establish new safety protocols in response to COVID-19. A hand washing station was donated by MOFGA certified hemp farm LoveGrown Agricultural Research, signs were posted along the perimeter reminding people to stay six feet apart and vendors established their own sanitation practices. 

The Farmington farmers market reopened Memorial weekend with signs posted around the perimeter of the lot to remind people to practice social distancing. Andrea Swiedom/ The Franklin Journal

“Today we have Erika being the food handler and I am the money transactor, so that way I’m not touching produce after touching people’s money,” Dave Allen of Rustic Roots Farm in Farmington said.

Farmington resident Marion Scharoun expected to see appropriate protocols established at the market and felt no anxiety about shopping.

“I assumed that it would be [safe], knowing some of the people here that they would do the right thing. It seems like everybody is spread out, everybody understands,” Scharoun said while balancing an armload of kale seedlings.

Allen of Rustic Roots did notice some drawbacks to the new safety practices. 

“Instead of having a big, bountiful display we do have our food items set back. People want to shop with their hands and touch produce, so this way, we’ve removed the temptation,” Allen said as he stood behind an empty table. “Every year, the displays got better with complimentary and contrasting colors, so I’ll miss that part.”

Allen has time to brainstorm an alternative no-touch display before his next market. Rustic Roots devotes the majority of its harvest to fill the 60 farm shares that people purchase in early spring. Because the farm has seen a spike in farm shares this season, Allen anticipates they won’t have surplus produce to bring to the market until July.

Allen attributed the dramatic increase in farm shares to people’s desire to support local food systems during the pandemic. Sarah Martin from Martin Woods Farm in Starks has also experienced a boom in her vegetable, baked goods and meat sales.

“We’re all trying to get by, and I think neighbors helping neighbors is one of the keys to a community sticking together,” Martin said as she stood in front of jars of honey and a vegan carrot cake that were quickly selling out.

Sara Martin at left of Martin Woods Farm in Starks and her employee Lillian Hunt sold out of pumpkin doughnuts, chocolate covered espresso beans, pork chops and sausage at Saturday’s market. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Farmington resident Brianna Shaw has been attending the farmers market for eight seasons now, and she was eager to support local food producers despite some initial nerves before leaving her house.

“I was [nervous] at first, but then I saw their Facebook post saying they have a washing station and wearing a mask, and it’s outdoors. And I know from previous summers there hasn’t been a whole lot of people here which helped ease me,” Shaw said while eyeing coolers full of local hamburger and pork chops. “It helps the community and the locals here.”

Jack Haywood of LoveGrown Agricultural Research in Farmington expressed some skepticism about the upcoming season despite some vendors noting a rise in business.

“I know that if people drive-by and they see something they want, they stop. But I know that folks aren’t just window-shopping, so there’s not a lot of browsing going on,” Haywood said while loading the hand washing station he had donated to the market into his pickup truck.

Despite the lack of customers browsing at the market, all of the vendors were in good spirits about the day’s business. Ray Wood of Sandy’s Country Flowers in New Sharon stood in front of an empty trailer that had been filled with hanging baskets, six packs of petunias and tomato seedlings that morning.  

“It’s been booming for me!” Wood said with his eyes squinted, indicating a smile beneath his mask.

Ray Wood of Sandy’s Country Flowers in New Sharon has sold annuals and vegetable seedlings with his wife at the Farmington farmers market for over ten years. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

The Farmington farmers market takes place every Friday on Front Street in the lot between the Better Living Center and the Narrow Gauge Cinema from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Saturday market is located on Main Street in the lot across from the courthouse from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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