Yes, the Vancouver Farmers Market is reopening. Here’s what that means.
On Friday, Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes issued an emergency declaration that reopened the Vancouver Famers Market.
Shortly afterward, my email inbox blew up with readers wanting to know how that could possibly be a good idea during the COVID-19 outbreak. So I reached out to city spokesperson Carol Bua on Monday about the reasoning behind the decision.
Bua responded in an email:
“On March 23, when Governor Inslee issued the stay-at-home order, he included guidance on ‘essential’ businesses that were allowed to stay open under the order; farmers markets were listed as ‘essential,'” Bua wrote.
“Since that time, the City has been working with the Vancouver Farmers Market to develop a revised operations plan that would allow them to open a scaled down version with food vendors only and the addition of safety measures, such as monitored social distancing, hand washing stations, and limited entrances/exits. The goal of these conversations has been to identify a means to provide Vancouver residents access to fresh food products in an open-air environment with proper distancing and sanitation measures in place.”
Later Monday evening, at the Vancouver City Council meeting (held via phone conference), Vancouver Farmers Market Executive Director Jordan Boldt offered some additional details.
Boldt clarified that the Farmers Market will not operate normally. The market will be treated as a public utility, not a place to stroll and socialize.
“Everyone envisions the bustling, busy event,” Boldt told the city council, adding that packing the market with people would be deeply inappropriate right now. “It’s a much different shopping experience, for sure.”
Social distancing monitors will keep track of people in the market at the entrances and exits and stagger people if necessary, Boldt said. Signage posted around the market will remind patrons of the six-foot rule, reinforcing the expectation that people act responsibly. The total number of vendors has been slashed down to a quarter of the usual number, and there’s no crafts and goods available for sale — only groceries and prepackaged food.
Additionally, all staff and vendors will be required to wear masks, Boldt said. Anyone directly handling customer goods will have to wear gloves.
The modified Vancouver Farmers Market has been modeled after a handful of other regional markets operating through the COVID-19 outbreak, like the Hood River Farmer’s Market, which reopened on April 4.
“You actually are coming to a market, you are not coming to an event,” Boldt said. “There’s no music, there’s no food, there’s no place to sit down, there’s no place to congregate.”