By Sam Killmeyer

Farmers markets across Colorado are looking a little different this summer! Like grocery stores, farmers markets have been deemed “essential businesses” under the Colorado public health order and will be doing their best to keep vendors and visitors safe during this crisis.

According to the Colorado Farmers Market Association (CFMA), there are an estimated 100 farmers markets across all of Colorado, and they are an integral part of our communities. Most markets are finding ways to operate, and the open-air environment of a farmers market may just be the perfect to shop during a pandemic.

If you’re concerned about visiting your local market during the COVID-19 crisis, here are a few tips for staying safe and a few of the ways farmers markets are adjusting to follow public health guidelines.

1. Online Ordering & Curbside Pickup

Like restaurants and other businesses where social distancing is very difficult (or impossible) to achieve, farmer’s markets are turning towards curbside pickup and online ordering. Many farmers markets have gone online, which means you can pre-order and pre-pay, limiting your exposure to others. While this does require both vendors and the market to have necessary online infrastructure, markets like the Colorado Fresh Markets at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center are able to provide an extensive selection of fresh foods and other products like jewelry or textiles.

The Boulder County Farmers Market (BCFM) has an excellent curbside pickup model, and what they’re calling BCFM2GO, an online market that includes a registration form with digital inventory where you can place your order for pickup. When you pick up your food, remember to wear a mask and remain in your car. While you miss out on socializing with vendors, it’s quick, easy, and, most importantly, safe. 

2. Socially Distance

Since farmers markets are essential businesses, most will remain open for in person shopping, but this year you won’t be able to hang out and sample all the salsas or listen to music. Instead, farmers markets like Farmers Market at Fairgrounds Park in Loveland, (which will open June 7) are working to create rules and structures aligned with public health guidelines. 

A limited number of people will be able to access the market and will walk one way through a single entry and exit point. Vendors will be allowed a maximum of two workers at each booth and are encouraged to accept credit cards, along with SNAP and Double Up vouchers. There will also be two hand washing stations and hand sanitizer at various booths. 

3. Join a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture)

CSAs have always been one of the best ways to support local farmers, and that holds even more true this summer! Farmers relying on CSAs are seeing increases in orders and customers, and while it is most likely too late to sign up for one, you can ask local farms if they are extending their CSA membership and if you can still join. If you do, you’ll be able to pick up boxes of vegetables and other local products on a regular basis throughout the growing season. Many farms also have winter farm shares so that you can have wholesome, local food all year round!

4. Buy Prepackaged Goods

While packaging adds to waste, it’s also a good way to help people move more quickly through the farmers market and to limit touching as many things. While you won’t get to pick out the very best kale or corn, prepackaged goods mean you can grab and go — meaning less time in market and less contact with others.

5. Wear A Mask

Just because farmers markets are outdoors doesn’t mean you can leave your mask at home! Be sure to wear a mask to protect others — many markets will require you to have one on in order to enter.

How You Can Support Your Local Farmers

It’s easy — continue to go to your farmers markets, whether online, in-person at a social distance, or through a CSA! We’re all spending more time at home, so whip up some delicious new recipes with locally grown food or simply snack on a handful of beautifully ripe cherry tomatoes. 

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