New policies to minimize the potential for spread of the coronavirus will be in place at the Falmouth Farmers Market when it opens on Thursday, May 28.
The market will have a new look this year. In prior years, vendors have lined up in a horseshoe shape, tent to tent, with minimal spacing in between.
“Instead of that horseshoe shape, we will go in a straight line, closer to the road side on Scranton Avenue,” Lindsey Close, president of the Falmouth Farmers Market board of directors, told selectmen at their Monday, May 11, meeting. “That should allow us to have 10-foot spacing between each of our tents for each of our farmers and vendors. Vendors will be more than 10 feet away from each other.”
This means there will be “slightly fewer” vendors with this setup. Ms. Close estimates the market will have five fewer vendors this season.
“It is a different year, let’s put it that way,” she said.
The market will have a hand-washing and hand-sanitizing station. All shoppers at the farmers market will be required to wear a mask. All farmers and vendors will be wearing masks and gloves. Space markers will be spray-painted onto the grass to promote social distancing.
“We’re working with our farms and vendors on pre-packaging and pre-pricing everything that they can, so it can be a quick transaction,” Ms. Close said. “Really, our messaging this year is come, shop and leave, unfortunately.”
Selectman Samuel H. Patterson asked about the availability and sanitization of restrooms, noting the market has used the restrooms at the harbormaster’s office in prior years. Town Manager Julian M. Suso said those restrooms will be available for public use.
“I can confirm that those restrooms are intended to be available to the public, and we are exploring working with a private entity that will regularly, with some regularity, sanitize those restrooms,” Mr. Suso said. “We will make every effort, as we know those will be used with some regularity, to keep those clean and, of course, we welcome the assistance of all members of the public who use them as well.”
Ms. Close said customers are encouraged to go to the bathroom prior to attending the farmers market.
“For our shoppers, we’re trying to make it clear it should be as much of an in-and-out transaction as possible, with no eating there or anything like that, and part of that is reminders to use the bathroom before you leave home,” she said. “As a mom, it is pretty second nature to me before we leave the house, but is absolutely a concern that we have, because we have vendors who are there that will need to use the restrooms.”
Mr. Patterson also asked if the market would restrict the use of cash.
“We are strongly recommending credit cards, Venmo, PayPal or Apple Pay,” Ms. Close said. “We don’t feel that we can say no cash. I’d have to check with a lawyer if that is something we can do. I don’t know if we can do that.”
Vendors will be advised to round prices to a full dollar amount so change does not have to be made to minimize the amount of money changing hands, further reducing the risk of spreading the virus.
The market’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program matching program will continue in a modified fashion. The market matches up to $10 in SNAP card purchases at the market, and in the past has given people reusable wooden tokens that could be used to purchase SNAP-approved foods from the various vendors.
“This year, we will be going to a paper system, so instead of reusable tokens, it will be a one-time paper,” Ms. Close said. “Each vendor will have a container, and the customer can put that right in the container without the vendor touching it. We’ll take the container at the end of each market, quarantine them for a couple of days, and pay out to the vendors at the beginning of the next market.”
She said several vendors participate in the Healthy Incentives Program.
“If you buy directly from a farmer who participates in the Healthy Incentives Program, that amount that you spend at the farmer is actually returned back to your card, so you’re essentially getting fruits and vegetables for free while supporting a local farmer,” she said.
The Falmouth Farmers Market begins on Thursday, May 28, at Bigelow Marine Park on Scranton Avenue. The market will run from noon to 6 PM every Thursday through October 8. The market is held rain or shine.