Adjusting to the New Normal at our Farmers Markets

BY DEBRA J. MORRIS

Summer is here, the corn and tomatoes are being harvested, the planting of fall crops has begun, and your local farmers’ markets continue to supply good wholesome fruits and vegetables, even in the midst of a pandemic. We are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel as safety guidelines ease, but we remain vigilant in protecting customer and farmer safety.

Currently, farmers’ markets have evolved, albeit temporarily, to become more of a service rather than an event, where customers can purchase produce and other local products and leave quickly. Customers’ reactions to the current way of shopping at a farmers’ market vary in degree of enthusiasm, though they love to get their produce from local farms.

 

One Martinez customer said “I’m comfortable about shopping here. They seem to have everything under control as far as safety measures.”

“I don’t like the fact that I can’t pick up the produce and touch it before buying it, but I understand why it’s done this way,” another shopper from the Martinez market states. “It doesn’t keep me from shopping here.”

Farmers are especially thankful for this direct-to-consumer approach and appreciate the support they are finding from the local community. They are also seeing a slow and steady increase in customers who favor local produce, with many repeat customers each week. It has been a difficult adjustment for farmers in the last few months. Not being able to sell at farmers’ markets was hard on their bottom line, but with more markets opening the outlook is improving.

“It’s good to see customers coming back each week to pick up their produce. More are coming back every week and that’s important to my family,” says a farmer at the Martinez Farmers’ Market.

With safety protocols in place, such as no sampling or touching of produce, mask requirements, rearrangement of booths, and social distancing, the market manager has also had to adjust to new protocols. It has been a somewhat complicated transition from the way markets were operated previously to the way the safety guidelines require they operate currently.

Martinez Farmers’ Market manager Michael Peterson says, “There have been lots of changes to the market since we’ve had to practice social distancing. The set-up is more spread out and customers can’t touch the produce. It’s been hard to keep an eye on everything.” He’s had to rearrange booth setup, cajole, encourage and restrict both farmers and customers to ensure social distancing, while also keeping up with the ever-changing state and county safety requirements.

Keep on supporting your local farmers market during a time when we need to invest in local farms so they will be here for us in the future. The stronger local farmers are, the better off the local food supply chain will be.

The first hour of the Martinez market, from 9am to 10am, is still reserved for seniors and those at risk, so keep this in mind when you shop. Thank you for supporting your local farmers market during a time when we need to invest in local farms so they will be here for us in the future. The stronger local farmers are, the better off the local food supply chain will be.

Now in season: Stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, pluots, apriums) from Ken’s Top Notch in Fresno, Resendiz Farms and J&J Ramos Farms out of Hughson; tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers from Tu Universo Farms from Watsonville; berries from KEM Farms in Fresno; sweet corn from G&S Farms in Brentwood; green beans, summer squash, and eggplant from VV Farms in Santa Cruz.

Peach Salsa
6 peaches, peeled, pitted, diced
1 pound tomatoes, diced
½ medium red onion, diced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 to 3 limes
1-3 finely diced jalapeño peppers with seeds removed, depending on heat you like.
Salt to taste

Toss ingredients in a bowl and add salt to taste. The amount of lime juice you use will need to be determined by the acidity of tomatoes and peaches. Taste as you go. Chill for an hour or two, or enjoy at room temperature.

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