Farmers Market returns to Main Street
Published 8:50 pm Thursday, May 14, 2020
STEPHEN FALESKI/STAFF WRITER
The Smithfield Farmers Market will return this Saturday to its traditional Main Street location behind the Bank of Southside Virginia and will once again allow customers to walk from vendor to vendor.
For the past two weeks, the market had moved to a drive-through format at Smithfield Middle School to facilitate social distancing. Prior to that, Isle of Wight County Tourism had been conducting markets virtually as far back as St. Patrick’s Day.
According to Isle of Wight County Tourism’s Facebook page, vendors will still be well spaced out at what is being termed a “social distancing walk-through market,” with attendees still being asked to follow all guidelines and precautions the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommend, including wearing a face mask and using hand sanitizer. Curbside pick-up will still be available to those who wish to pre-order, but on-site browsing will no longer be prohibited.
“The change from the drive-through to the downtown location was a safety call,” said Smithfield Farmers Market Manager Teresa Frantz. “Although the drive- through gave us access to our customers in a safe distancing fashion, the driving through of vehicles added to unsafe conditions and made logistics very challenging.”
The walk- through event, she added, will lower the danger of vehicular traffic incidents.
Most of Virginia, including Isle of Wight County, will be allowed to enter the first phase of Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Forward Virginia” reopening plan this Friday, which will permit places of worship and some non-essential retail establishments to reopen at 50% capacity. The ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people remains in effect, but does not apply to farmers’ markets, according to Frantz.
“As a farmers market, we qualify as an essential business, so we legally have been allowed to operate from the beginning of COVID under separate guidance,” she said. “We have been super conservative up to this point because we wanted to make sure it was safer both for the public and for our vendors.”
According to the Forward Virginia plan, during Phase 1 farmers’ markets must continue to offer order-ahead and pickup options. If markets choose to open, they may do so only in outdoor spaces and must adhere to additional requirements for outdoor services, including:
• Posting signage at the entrance that states no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the past 145 days, is permitted to enter;
• Posting signage providing public health reminders regarding physical distancing, gatherings, options for high-risk individuals and staying home if sick;
• Providing a minimum of six feet between people at tables and allowing for physical distancing from areas outside the market, such as people on public sidewalks;
• Providing hand sanitizer or hand-washing stations for patrons and employees.
Vendors are further required to use enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices to regularly clean their spaces and equipment. Those handling money are to wash their hands between each transaction. Employees and vendors must also wear face coverings over their mouths and noses. For on-site shopping, physical distancing must be adhered to, with the site configured to avoid congestion or congregation points. Markets are further encouraged, but not required to:
• Promote no-touch or low-touch purchasing by pre-boxing or pre-bagging food items;
• Discourage vendor sampling;
• Limit vendors to those selling food and horticultural products or other handcrafted products critical for hygiene and sanitation such as handmade soaps and face masks;
• Encourage touchless payment systems;
• Encourage customers to wear face coverings while entering, exiting or otherwise traveling throughout the farmers’ market, and;
• Update websites and social media with detailed instructions so patrons understand the expectations while at the market.
A complete list of vendors participating in Saturday’s market, along with contact information for pre-ordering, can be found at: genuinesmithfieldva.com/events/detail/360/smithfield-farmers-markets-social-distancing-walk-thru-market/16690.