Farmers Markets and COVID-19

Gordon Johnson, Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist;

Delaware farmer’s markets will open sometime after May 15, Maryland farmer’s markets are open now and Washington DC farmer’s markets cannot open unless they have an approved social distancing policy.

COVID-19 spreads by respiratory transmission and not with food. The routes to be concerned about include being in very close proximity to many people or coming in contact with high touch surfaces.

The following is some guidance for farmer’s market managers and vendors to minimize the potential for COVID-19 spread:

● Market managers should communicate proactively about what steps the market is taking to prevent the spread of illness. Be ready to communicate if a known COVID-19 patient has been at the market recently.

  • Vendors and customers should not come to market if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, or have come in contact with someone who is sick. This policy should be communicated through market signage and media.
  • Anyone displaying symptoms at the farm should not go to market.
  • Cloth face coverings should be required for customers, vendors, and their staff.
  • Advise those attending the market in any capacity — customer, vendor, worker, volunteer — to wash their hands before arriving and upon returning home.
  • Rent portable hand-washing stations to place throughout the market.
  • Create hand-sanitizer stations and ensure that all vendor booths at least have hand sanitizer.
  • Increase the frequency with which staff will disinfect high touch surfaces/objects throughout the market.

● At this time, social distancing is necessary to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.

  • Market managers and boards are advised to promote social distancing by enforcing a 6 to 10-foot space between vendor booths.
  • Keep customers from grouping too close to one another and to staff.
  • Provide signage that urges customers to keep a 6-foot distance away from others and discouraging groups of 10 or more from assembling together in one area.
  • Space the checkout stations 6 feet or more apart. If space is limited, limit checkout to one person at a time.
  • Keep your staff 6 feet apart from one another
  • Discontinue events that encourage gathering and eliminate entertainment. Eliminate, or cordon off, any seating and eating areas.
  • Consider devoting the first 30 minutes of market hours to elderly or immunocompromised customers.
  • Designate only one entrance and only one exit to the market.
  • Limit traffic to one customer per vendor booth at a time.
  • Implement time limits for customers at each vendor booth.
  • Encourage customers to prepare advance shopping lists to reduce shopping times.
  • Ask customers to remain in their vehicles if lines begin to form.
  • Request that customers leave after they have completed their purchases.

Other Recommendations
● Discontinue customer sampling unless samples are pre-packaged from a commercial kitchen.

  • Prevent customers from touching products they are not purchasing for themselves.
  • Round prices to the nearest dollar to avoid the need for coins in making change.
  • Encourage credit-card or cashless transactions whenever possible.
  • Limit human contact with products by bagging them for customers.
  • Consider pre-packaged options for faster checkout times and crowd reductions.
  • Split duties for payment and bagging between two different people.
  • Vendors should wear disposable gloves to avoid contamination and/or touching their faces.
  • Change disposable gloves whenever changing tasks.

Market Alternatives – Drive Through or Pickup
A drive through market in which customers pick up orders from their vehicles will limit both contact with others and their time at the market.

  • The market master creates a menu tab on the farmers’ market website.
  • Customers view products and place orders via Google Forms (or other online form).
  • Pickup times are designated for customers, who stay in their vehicles during pickup.
  • Orders are delivered to the vehicles by staff that have masks and gloves.

Vendors can also implement online ordering through their sites — using the farmers’ market as a pickup location for pre-packaged products.

This information was obtained from the following sites: