Area farmers markets dealing with challenges

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Manchester Journal

Area farmers markets have managed to launch their season albeit with limited space, fewer  vendors, a narrower selection of offerings and without many of the additional features that often accompany the agricultural products.

In Arlington, as many as 25 vendors have signed up for the Arlington Village Farmers Market opening July 10 for a 10-week season, ending Sept. 11.

That's fewer vendors than last year, according to market manager Jessica Roberts, but it's more than the market would have been able to accommodate until recently, when the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets issued new guidance reducing required booth spacing from 12 feet to 6 feet.

The volunteer-run market, now in its third year of existence, will be hosted from 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays on the front lawn of the Arlington Inn on Route 7A. Organizers this year plan to situate booths in the shade, since vendors will be wearing face masks, Roberts said.

"We just have to be flexible and adaptable" this year, said Roberts, who estimated she puts in at least 20 volunteer hours a week as manager. The market, which launched in 2018 as a six-week pilot project under the Arlington Area Renewal Project's auspices, became a state-recognized nonprofit with a board of directors earlier this year.

The latest state guidance, issued on June 19, permits entertainment subject to certain restrictions. That change will allow for live music to be performed at the market this summer, with the Hale Mountain Pickers bluegrass performing on the season's first day. Organizers won't be setting out audience chairs this year, but having music is nonetheless critical to draw people to the market to support local farmers, Roberts said.

The market's bandstand will abut the Arlington Inn's outside patio dining area, which means that diners at that establishment will also be able to enjoy the music, Roberts said.

Other markets have chosen to forgo the music, kids booths featuring games and face-painting, and many other things that create a family-friendly social atmosphere to draw more customers.

But most, are just glad to be open.

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Manchester's Farmers Market is open 3-6 p.m. Thursdays in Adams Park.

The market launched June 4 and plans to run through Oct. 8.

That wasn't a given for much of the spring as market managers and vendors eagerly awaited word from the state if they'd be able to open.

In late May, the Manchester Farmers Market posted on Facebook it had it figured out given the state requirements.

"It has been an interesting battle trying to figure out a way to hold our Market with all the new precautions," read a post.

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John Sawyer, manager of the West River Farmers Market in Londonderry, said turnout has been good for the 26th year despite having only slightly more than half the normal number of vendors as in the past.

The West River Farmers Market is taking many of the same precautions others are and are required by state rules.

One-way traffic through the market with one entrance and one exit, plenty of hand sanitizer, and mandatory face masks for vendors and customers.

And like other markets, they've limited products to agricultural products, removing the arts and crafts items.

Shoppers are asked to take the prepared items with them away from the market.

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Sawyer said everyone has handled the rules well so far, except for one person.

"Customers have been very understanding and cooperative with the new restrictions overall," Sawyer said. "Only had issues with one customer in the several weeks we have been open so far."

Vendors were initially required to be 12 feet from each other necessitating the reduction in vendor spaces, but that has recently been reduced to 6 feet allowing a few more vendors to be allowed in.

"[That] allowed us to get to slightly over half of our vendors in attendance," Sawyer said. "Previously we were slightly under half of our typical vendors."

Sawyer said there have been a few vendors — about four to six — who were concerned about COVID-19 and chosen to stay away this year.

The West River Farmers Market is open 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays through Columbus Day.

In Dorset, the year-round market that moves from indoors the JK Adams Kitchen Store in the winter to its outdoor location at the HN Williams General Store, is held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Other markets did not open this year.

The Jamaica Farmers Market has a notice on its Facebook page that says, "Sorry folks, there is no Jamaica Farmers' Market this summer."

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com and Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com


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