Featured, Local News

Farmers markets get underway with new protocols

Rutland’s Summer Market will open at Depot Park downtown Saturday, May 16

By Katy Savage

RUTLAND—After a four-week mandated closure, the Vermont Farmers’ Market in Rutland is coming back Saturday, May 16.

Gov. Phil Scott gave farmers’ markets permission to open May 2, but only if they follow certain guidelines.

Vermont Farmers’ Market president Paul Horton is requiring vendors to wear face masks and gloves under state guidelines. People will also be required to stay six-feet apart and booths will be spaced 12 feet apart.

“We’ll be spread out and have one-way traffic,” Horton said.

The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets issued updated guidelines May 6, allowing both vendors selling agricultural products and nonagricultural products to participate in the markets.

Jennie Porter, the marketing development manager for Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont Market, said farmers’ markets won’t look the same this season.

“Markets aren’t going to be a social, community place this season,” Porter said. “It’s essentially just a shopping destination — that’s what’s going to feel the most different for folks.”

All activities, including music and cooking demonstrations that encourage people to congregate, will be suspended under state guidelines. Eating and drinking at the premises, including sampling food, will also be prohibited and vendors will be required to offer online and phone ordering for pre-pay and pick-up.

“One of the goals is to reduce social gathering,” Porter said. “Not having music is one way to discourage people from lingering.”

Porter isn’t sure if the mandates will change as the season continues.

“The state has been clear it doesn’t know either,” Porter said.

There are about 70 summer farmers’ markets in the state. Porter said at least six will stay closed this year due to Covid-19 concerns.

The Vermont Farmers’ Market is usually open year-round. The Winter Market on West Street in Rutland closes and the outdoor summer market

at Depot Park opens — usually on Mother’s Day weekend.

“We’re really only starting the summer market one week late,” Horton said.

Horton said there are usually 80-90 vendors at the Rutland summer market, but some may not participate this year.

“I expect we’ll see about half of that,” he said.

Greg Cox, the former president of the Vermont Farmers Market and owner of Boardman Hill Farm in West Rutland, is taking extra precautions to re-open his vendor booth.

“For me, it’s a very important part of my business plan and important to my family,” he said. “I’m adamant that local food is more important than food that’s coming from a long supply chain. I think it’s healthier, I know it’s more economically viable.”

Cox isn’t sure how his business will be impacted this summer.

“We don’t know the comfort zone of the vendors or the customers,” Cox said. “There are some of those that may not be comfortable coming into what they perceive as a dangerous situation. A lot of folks that come to the market are older and this thing’s not over by a long shot.”

All farmers markets in the state were required to close, shocking some local farmers as farmers markets in bordering states stayed open, having been classified more similarly with grocery stores.

“This whole situation has shown the cracks in a broken food system,” Cox said.

The farmers market in Rutland is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday markets begin May 20, according to vtfarmersmarket.org.

Despite the changes, Horton was grateful to open again.

“I think our customers are going to be very glad to have us back in business,” Horton said.

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