You'll be at ease shopping with these rules in place.

By Hayley Sugg
March 25, 2021

At this point in the pandemic, we can assume that most places we shop at will require masks and encourage social distancing. While the majority are already meeting these goals, many farmers' markets — which have been hit particularly hard by coronavirus reducing their number of customers — are going above and beyond with safety protocol.

If you find yourself hesitant to visit a farmers' market and have made online delivery from major grocery stores your go-to, you may be surprised to find how safe it can be to shop locally. Take a moment to visit the market's website or social media to see just what rules have been set in place.

Saleswoman on the market stall packing pepper for customer behind protective screen
Credit: zoranm / Getty Images

While not every market will run the same way, we spoke with Lisa Beasley, market manager for The Market at Pepper Place, a large farmers' market located in Birmingham, Ala., to see what regulations her team has implemented. When the pandemic began, Beasley says, "I called markets around the country, spoke to market managers in other cities, New York, Arizona, Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee and found out what they were going to do. Because we didn't know when it was going to end." These are four of the major changes that many markets, including Pepper Place, have made to combat coronavirus and keep customers safe:

1. Online ordering.

While we'd all love to peruse the aisles of the farmers' market and pick out our own perfectly ripe peaches or tomatoes, some of us are still uncomfortable being in public spaces around others. If you fall into that category, you'll be happy to know that many farmers' markets offer online ordering. If your market has this service, you can pick out your favorite vendors online, choose what you'd like to order, and either pick up in person at a designated spot or grab your order at the drive-thru (see below).

2. Drive-thru.

Whether referred to as a drive-thru or curbside pickup, these socially distanced options have become the new norm for many markets as a way to compete with big box stores. You can order online and get your local goods either handed to you or put straight into your trunk with no direct contact. "I also would encourage people before they jump on Amazon or something like that, to look at the local options and see if their local farmers' market has a drive-thru pick up option like we do," says Beasley. "And if they do, go on their site and see what they have to offer and order. Because it's going to be local, it's going to be small business, and it's important to support those people in that community."

3. Curbing eating and drinking.

While food is obviously the point of farmers' markets, selling dishes like pastries or having freshly brewed coffee available can be a conundrum in a pandemic. Having these ready-to-eat foods encourages customers to enjoy them right on the spot, meaning that many will remove their masks to do so. Some markets have banned selling these ready-to-consume products, while others have taken a different approach. "We realized you can't control everything, so we try to be realistic about what we can control," Beasley says about customers eating at Pepper Place. To allow their same vendors to keep selling, and for everyone to be able to enjoy food from the market, Beasley's team implemented a designated seating area for eating. These socially distanced tables gives plenty of space for mask removal, so patrons can partake in their favorite pastries or cup of coffee without worry.

4. Detailed directions.

By now we're all used to having direction markers on the grocery store aisles, but farmers' markets are also implementing this strategy. Many have made their markets one-way only, meaning there is a designated entrance and exit to control the flow of traffic. That, along with labeled spots for standing in line and more distance between tents and tables, means less face-to-face passing for customers.

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