CLINTON — The short answer to whether the long-running summer’s Farmer’s Market season will take place in Clinton this year is yes. However, new restrictions in the midst of the coronavirus/COVID-19 threat will also take place, and some age-old practices, altered.
The market will, as it stands now, open on Thursday, June 4, and as usual, run each Thursday, until Oct. 1. Market hours are set from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
While Farmer’s Markets are considered essential businesses and are also exempt from the mass gatherings restrictions set forth in the Governor’s Executive Order 202.8, they should institute the guidance practices to the greatest extent possible to protect New Yorkers, explains a memo sent out by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
The memo can be read here - https://agriculture.ny.gov/coronavirus
The new restrictions are as follows,
• No forms of entertainment.
• No cooking demonstrations or sampling.
• No craft or non-food vendors, except for soap or hand sanitizer.
• Space out vendors as much as possible.
• Minimize the amount of food on display with customer access.
• Increase the number of handwashing stations and make hand sanitizer available.
• Manage customer traffic within the market to eliminate congregating and to promote social distancing (i.e., maintaining a distance of at least 6-feet between customers).
In addition, as of April 15:
• All employers are required to provide employees with a face mask at no cost. All employees must wear them.
• This means all market staff, paid and volunteer needs to be provided with a face mask and wear them throughout the market day.
• This also means that all farmers/vendors should provide face masks to their staff as well, and wear them throughout the day.
• All customers of the farmer’s market must wear a face mask.
“I’ve been on weekly Zoom meetings since mid-April, hosted by the Farmer’s Market Federation of NY, with other farmer’s market managers across New York state,” said Jackie Walters, executive director of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce and market manager of the Clinton Farmers Market. “When I get on these meetings there are approximately 80 of us and we are just trying to support each other.
Walters said her biggest concern at this point is how to manage the crowd.
“I’m working very closely with Mayor Steve Bellona because we both have to have the same vision,” Walters said.
Walters said a lot of these new policy implementations go against everything they’ve always tried to establish over past years.
“We’ve always striven to make this a social family fun community event,” Walters said. “ We always said [in the past] — ‘come out, hang out, listen to music, see the demonstrations’, and this season it’s not going to be like that at all.”
Walters said because things are due to change is why it’s so important to keep an eye on the Clinton Farmer’s Market Facebook page, for all updates. The same updates are posted on the Clinton Chamber of Commerce page. However, as of this writing, Walters is working to establish some new ways of facilitating each market Thursday based on what some of the other markets are suggesting.
“For the safety and benefit of those shoppers most at risk during this pandemic, we are requesting that the first hour of the market (10-11 a.m.) is for vulnerable shoppers (includes senior citizens, expectant mothers, and those with underlying health concerns).
Walters continued to explain state-wide market organizers are discussing — “you go in, pick out what you need- and leave.”
“They don’t want any browsing, anyone hanging around,” Walters said.
Also, the way people pay for goods is something organizers are looking to amend.
“I’m going to encourage our customers to pre-order and pre-pay online as much as possible,” Walters said. “Especially to those vendors who have that capability.”
She voiced an example.
“Say you wanted to buy something from Conley Farm,” she said. “You could shop and pay for something through their website and then just come to the market to pick it up and then leave.”
Walters also said she thinks it’s lucky that we are having a market at all as a lot of other markets have decided to just have a pick-up.
“Basically you just purchase everything online,” she said. “And you drive your car through as they load you up. So you’re not even able to leave your car. But I’m hoping we can manage the crowd because I believe it would be nice to have vendors and customers on the green.”
Walter’s said another significant change to provide more room for social distancing will be a limited and decreased number of vendors this season. Which vendors will be allowed to participate will be determined by what the farmers market was originally intended to provide.
“It’s really geared toward having a healthy food outlet for the community,” Walters said. “The vendors coming back are definitely the farmers, produce vendors, and as of right now we are allowing soap and hand-sanitizer sellers, those are the main vendors.”
Walters said she and Bellona agreed to delay the participation of prepared food vendors to come right away.
“From everyone I’ve talked to they said ‘start the market small,” Walters said. “ You can always add in vendors as you feel comfortable as the season progresses. Where you get in trouble is if you start too big it will get too crowded and then come to the legal warnings and we don’t want to put ourselves (meaning the village residents) in that situation.”
Vendors have also been asked to change how they conduct business as well. Detailed in the same memo describing customer restrictions are guidelines for vendors.
In addition to food safety protocols that are taken by farmers on the farm, farmers’ market operators should implement their own sanitary protocols. While the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, and Federal Drug and Food Administration, or FDA, have stated that coronavirus/COVID-19 is not known to be transmitted in food or food packaging, farmers/vendors are required to adhere to the following requirements, the memo detailed.
• Do not permit customers to spend an excessive amount of time near the booth or table.
• Frequently clean and sanitize surfaces and other frequently touched points of contact.
• Frequently wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available. (Gloves are recommended while handling products at the market.)
• Pre-package raw agricultural products, such as apple, potatoes, onions, etc. to the extent possible. All other foods, such as loaves of bread and baked goods, must be sold prepackaged. Please refer to existing food labeling laws.
• Be knowledgeable about the Food Safety at Farmers Markets Guidelines.
• Frequently check the Department’s website for updates and additional resources.
Consider other approaches to facilitate the direct sale of farm markets. Alternative options may include:
• Online ordering, or other creative purchasing solutions, with pick up at the market. This is to help reduce crowds and the handling of cash or other currencies.
• A market-wide, community-supported agriculture (CSA) or food box for pick up.
Regular handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds should be done:
• Before and after eating; sneezing, coughing, or nose blowing;
• After touching the face, hair, cellphone and/or clothing;
• After using the restroom.
• Before handling food.
• After touching or cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated.
• After using shared equipment and supplies.
• If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Walters said she’s been on the Zoom calls since April and she’s doing everything she can to gather as much information as possible, and then disseminate it in as many outlets as she can find.
“Communication will be key for the Farmer’s Market to run smoothly,” Walter’s said.
Clinton Farmers Market Guidelines:
1. Please send one person per household
2. If you are sick, please stay home
3.10 - 11 a.m. is for vulnerable shoppers
4. Maintain 6-feet between people
4.Pre-order/Pre-pay if you can
5. Do not touch products
6.Wear a mask
7. Leave quickly after shopping
8. Be patient, be kind.
“Communication will be key for the Clinton Farmer’s Market to run smoothly,” Walters said.
Please follow the Clinton Farmers Market Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/ClintonNYFarmersMarket) and check the Clinton Chamber of Commerce Website, Farmers Market page (https://clintonnychamber.org/farmers-market/) for the latest updates. Email Jackie Walters at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.