FARMINGTON – The Farmington Growers Market, which started 29 years ago, will open Saturday with additional public safety measures as a result of the coronavirus.
The market received approval from the city of Farmington to begin operations as scheduled, said Bonnie Hopkins, New Mexico State University agricultural extension agent for San Juan County.
There will be a few changes at this year’s market in keeping with public health precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Hopkins said. The market will have a designated entrance and exit with hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer available throughout the market, vendors will be required to wear masks, food cannot be consumed on-site and vendors will be spaced 6 feet apart.
The market, held in the Farmington Museum parking lot, can accommodate additional vendors even with incorporating social-distancing space between booths, Hopkins said, so they won’t have to reduce the number of vendors.
She added the market typically doesn’t reach full capacity of vendors or produce until peak season, starting in early August to mid-September.
Regulars to Farmington’s market will notice another difference: Customers will not be allowed to handle produce or products until after they have purchased them to reduce possible transmission of the coronavirus, Hopkins said.
The market is also encouraging touch-less payment methods, such as Venmo and Apple Pay, to reduce any cross-contamination with the use of cash. But she said it will be up to vendors to decide what their preferred method of payment is, and the market does plan on offering the token money.
“It’s a suggestion, hopefully by peak season we’ll get there,” Hopkins said. “We’re just trying to reduce the transfer of money as much as possible.”
While the market is typically a place to gather for the community, Hopkins said socializing and large gatherings this summer will not be encouraged.
“No hugs at the market. We’re such a huggy people, that it’s in the state guidance for farmers markets,” she said.
David Elder with Elder’s Greenhouse and Garden in Aztec, has participated in the Growers Market since it started in 1991. Since then, it has expanded and changed locations, but it has maintained its partnership with the city of Farmington and the local community.
“This year with the coronavirus, things will be different,” he said. “I think we’re all in a transition and not sure what it’ll look like. But the community is anxious to have a farmers market in whatever form they can get it.”
He said growers are just as anxious to see their customers.
The Farmington Growers Market has one of the later opening dates in the region. The Cortez Farmers Market opened last weekend and Durango’s market opened May 9, but all have incorporated social-distancing protocols and additional sanitations regulations.
“Every market has its own personality,” said Elder, who was also a vendor in Durango last year. Farmington has always made it a priority not to lose its agricultural base, he said.
The Farmington Growers Market has tried to stay true to its agricultural roots by mandating 90% of vendors be agricultural and allowing the remaining 10% to be craft vendors, Hopkins said.
Elder said the Durango market is often a mix of locals and tourists who come to Durango, with quite a few Texans who were fans of his okra – a rare sight at the higher and colder mountain-town market.
He said he was surprised at the number of regulars he saw at both markets.
“Because of the cross proximity in the two cities, I know vendors go back and forth, but I was kind of surprised to see the number of customers who go back and forth,” he said.
Elder said his farm has just about anything someone would have in a home garden but on a much larger scale. He estimates he is planting more than 4,000 tomato plants this year.
Elder, who said he’s made it a point to visit farmers markets wherever he travels, said they’re a place of community, of coming together to share knowledge.
“We come for the stories,” he said. “If you have a story to go with something, it’s so much better.”
The market opens Saturday and runs through Oct. 17. Hours are from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, starting July 7.