Burlington Farmers Market poised to re-open, but coronavirus bumps it to June

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The big farmers market in Burlington will begin its summer season June 6 — a month later than usual — due to changes imposed by the new coronavirus.

The market, which relocated to Pine Street last year, will shift its focus almost exclusively to food products, paid for in advance, said Market Director Mieko Ozeki on Monday.

“It’s part of what we’re calling ‘the new abnormal,'” Ozeki told the Free Press.

Craft vendors and jewelers will be absent. So will music and kids’ activities, as per orders announced April 24 by Gov. Phil Scott for farmers markets throughout Vermont.

That order also mandates:

  • No on-site consumption of drink or food, including samples.
  • Minimal handling of produce.
  • Face masks and gloves for all vendors.
  • Vendors required to offer online or phone orders for pre-pay and pickup.
  • No pets.
  • 12-foot distance between vendor booths.
  • Special pick-up times for customers with a higher risk of infection.
  • Only one family member per household to shop, when possible.

Unlike other farmers markets emerging around the country, the Queen City’s will not be a drive-through operation, Ozeki said — the potential for traffic back-ups on Pine Street would be too great.

Uncertainty over the pandemic’s progress through the community (and the state’s bureaucracy) complicates planning, she added, from securing commitments from vendors to mapping where they’ll pitch their tents.

Fewer vendors this year means finances are taking a hit. The market’s budget has been cut by about 75% this year, Ozeki said.

She launched a fundraiser last week to help vendors get up to speed in the digital marketplace, and to secure extra help for customers who use 3SquaresVT/SNAP benefits (food stamps) — and who can’t use their debit cards for online shopping.

As of Tuesday, donors have already kicked in $4,000 toward the $10,000 goal.

As of now, the market’s last day will be Oct. 17: two weeks earlier than usual. That date, like everything else these days, could change, Ozeki said.

“All the stars have to align,” she added.

How are other farmers markets are faring?

Vermont’s agricultural community encourages folks to seek out fresh, local food whenever possible.

Some resources on how to find fresh-grown grub:

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or joelbaird@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.

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