This Saturday marks the opening day of 2020’s farmers market season. I usually take this time to reflect on last year’s farmers market and share what we have in store for the upcoming season. However, as I sit down to write this, the story I want to share with you is of our journey to this season. There is a lot of work that goes into preparing for a farmers market season but after a few years, you kind of develop a system. We are used to battling the weather, but preparing for market in the midst of a pandemic has been a whole other beast. It is no secret that our world has drastically changed over the past few months. With that has come many sacrifices and changes as we adjust to a new normal. Therefore, we will be changing up how we set-up and operate this season in order to comply with the Jasper Farmers Market guidelines.
January and February
The year 2020 started like any other. Dad and I got together early in the year to discuss what big items we might want to invest in. Some of the ideas we threw around included a produce stand, trailer for market, and row covers for protection against weather/weeds. In February, we got word that they were planning to do the Downtown Chowdown. This is a monthly event, taking place the 2nd Wednesday of the month from May to October where farmers market food vendors and area food trucks can set up around the courthouse square. Since this increased the number of market days and extended the length of the market season, we decided to invest in the row covers.
After poring through numerous seed catalogs, we sat down and made of list of what we wanted to plant this season. Then, we went through all the seed packets we had left over from last year and crossed off the ones we didn’t need to order. I took the consolidated list, did some comparative shopping, and put together our orders from several different seed companies.
March and April
In March, everything changed! Every day, more and more public places were closing or events cancelled. Then, just a few days after spring began, the state of Indiana was put under a stay-at-home order. It was only supposed to last about two weeks, but it kept getting extended. The first Downtown Chowdown was postponed until June, but there were still no updates on the market.
Shout out to my Dad because he had to do all of the seed starting and most of the planting this season. I definitely missed being out in the field and playing in dirt. We probably wouldn’t have missed a beat if it weren’t for that cold week in April when the temperature in our hoop house dropped too low, knocking out most of our first round of seedlings. Well that, and the fact that we were not able to make a trip to our favorite greenhouse to get the rest of the plants we wanted. Typically, that is where we get our specialty plants, herbs, and berry plants. I hate the idea that we won’t be able to offer the same diversity this year, especially in the herbs. I keep hoping I’ll be able to find those plants locally, but so far I haven’t had much luck.
The first week of May was pretty eventful. The stay-at-home order lifted just in time for me to help Dad prepare for the late season freeze warning. We also got word that the farmers market was going to open as planned on May 23rd, with a few changes, of course. I immediately began trying to track down and order everything we needed to comply with the market’s guidelines and those we wanted to put in place. Saying that it was a challenge would be an understatement! I’m still waiting on a few items, but luckily, we have everything we absolutely need for the first market. With soil temps finally high enough, we’ve been busy planting (in between rain showers) to free up the trays so we can start the rest of our seeds. About a week ago, we learned that the first Downtown Chowdown has been postponed again, this time until July.
Changes for Market during the Pandemic
Although the Downtown Chowdown has been postponed twice, the farmers market’s opening date has not changed. Just like any public place right now, there will be guidelines to keep everyone as safe as possible. The Jasper Farmers Market’s guidelines are that everyone (vendors and shoppers) practice social distancing, wear a face mask, handle only what they intend to purchase, take all food home to eat, frequently sanitize their hands, and be patient as they wait for service.
In addition to the market’s guidelines, we plan to do the following:
- We will be wearing gloves and masks when harvesting, packaging, and selling our produce.
- All produce will be prepackaged before we arrive at market.
- At market, we will have one person fulfilling orders and one person handling money.
- We will be setting up as follows: a front table for taking orders and payment, a side table for picking up the orders, and the produce will be kept on the back table away from customers.
We realize that as things change and the season goes on, we may have to modify this plan. We ask that everyone be patient as we all adjust to these changes. As always, I can’t wait to see everyone again and am excited to see what this season holds!