Jessica Cejnar / Monday, June 1 @ 4:38 p.m. / Community
Farmers Markets — Hallmarks of a Del Norte Summer — Begin With Pandemic-Related Alterations This Month
COVID-19 has halted major local summer hallmarks, but the community’s two farmers markets are moving forward with alterations.
The first, the Downtown Crescent City Farmers and Artisans Market, operated by the Downtown Divas, will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Del Norte County Library parking lot at Front and K streets.
The second, Rural Human Services’ Crescent City Farmers Market is expected to begin June 13 at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds, though market manager Angel Hanson says the nonprofit is still working out the logistics.
Though the Saturday market is starting a week later than it normally does, according to Hanson, the organizers of both say despite new guidelines to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, it’ll be “business as usual.”
“Farmers markets are considered essential and so the city is allowing us to have a permit to operate in our normal parking lot,” Billie Kaye Tygart, a founding member of the Downtown Divas, told the Wild Rivers Outpost. We’re really happy about that.”
Recognized by the California Department of Food and Agriculture as an important source of fresh food, farmers markets continued to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. State officials urged local markets to work with environmental health and public health agencies. The CDFA also provided guidance on market layout and signage and sanitation and hygiene. The department urged markets to eliminate non-essential services such as live music, other entertainment, seating and dining areas and crafts, according to the department.
The CDFA also urged markets to keep accepting CalFresh and SNAP benefits and to offer curbside pickup or other services to accommodate individuals most at risk of serious illness for the novel coronavirus.
In Del Norte County, both Wednesday and Saturday markets will accept food vouchers through CalFresh and will hold its Market Match programs. Market Match program enables CalFresh recipients to purchase more fruits and vegetables. The Wednesday market will also accept vouchers through the P-EBT program, which offers an extra $365 per child to parents
On its first day, food only will be available at the Wednesday market. This includes produce from local farms like Ocean Air Farms and hot food that people can take to go, Tygart said. She said the Downtown Divas have figured out how to space the vendors to keep people safe using advice from the California Alliance for Farmers Markets and year-round markets throughout the Golden State for guidance.
There will be no food sampling at either market, according to Tygart and Hanson. Vendors will be required to sanitize and wash their stations. And at the Wednesday market, there will be chalk and tape measure so each vendor can mark out six feet once they get their spot set up, enabling patrons to effectively social distance, Tygart said.
“We’re taking some extra measures,” she said. “Our market manager brought a shield and we’re going to operate out of two cash boxes so we’re not intermingling money, so when we pay our farmers at the end of the day we’ll have untouched money for them to have.”
Tygart said the Divas bought brown lunch bags to hold pre-counted coins for their CalFresh and Market Match voucher programs to promote less touching.
“We’re requiring masks and definite social distancing,” she said. “It’ll be really different from anything we’ve done before. We’re asking everybody to be patient and flexible as we figure it out and dial it in ourselves.”
Tygart said once the Wednesday market’s first two weeks are in the bag, the Downtown Divas will determine if they will open up to arts and crafts vendors.
Though RHS is still working with the Del Norte County Fairgrounds on its layout and foot traffic flow, the Saturday farmers market will be open to all vendors, including its arts and craft vendors and Oregon farmers, Hanson said. The Saturday market was initially going to be held twice a month, Hanson said, but the Del Norte County Fairgrounds will enable RHS to hold it every week like it’s done for more than 13 years.
RHS has also been working with the Del Norte County Agriculture Department, the Environmental Health Branch and Public Health Officer Dr. Warren Rehwaldt to set up the farmers market, Hanson told the Outpost.
Hanson said the Del Norte County Fairgrounds is asking RHS to maintain 15 feet in between vendors vehicles. The fairgrounds also doesn’t want patrons to cut into the market in between vendors, so RHS is figuring out how to fence the market off and operate a specified entrance and exit, she said.
“Every vendor has to have hand sanitizer available and we have an order in for hand washing and sanitizing stations,” Hanson said. “We haven’t gotten them yet, so we’re trying to figure something else out that we can do in the meantime. But we’re going to require anybody that comes into the Farmers Market have a mask. It’s just like being in a grocery store, you want to be able to make sure everybody’s safe, especially people who are coming from far away to come and be set up to sell.”
Like the Wednesday market, there will be no sampling of food at the Saturday market, Hanson said. There will be no dining, though people can purchase hot food and eat while they walk, she said. Hanson noted that if they had offer tables and chairs for dining purposes, someone would have to sanitize them after each use.
Hanson said RHS will also ask its vendors to wash their hands often and not handle money if they’re working with food.
“I’m just hoping this year is going to be successful,” she said. “I’m thinking of people who have been out of work for awhile are going to go down and (be) setting up just so they can make some extra money.”
Tygart said after operating for about three years, 2020 was going to be the year several things were going to come to fruition. With the stay-at-home order from COVID-19, however, things have had to be postponed. One of the Downtown Divas’ signature events, Live From Downtown: It’s First Friday! has had to be canceled since Governor Newsom’s March 19 stay-at-home order limiting mass gatherings, Tygart said.
It’s disappointing, but the Divas have found alternatives to keep the fun going, she said.
“On May Day, which would have been a First Friday, we had sent out a request if anybody wanted a special delivery,” she said. “We partnered with Home Depot, who gave us some flowers for people that had signed up. As this continues and we’re not able to gather, we’ll have to think of some other fun things to do to be able to bring some happiness.”
In Del Norte County, 46 people have tested positive for COVID-19, 26 of whom have recovered as of 2:15 p.m. Monday. A total of 1,406 tests have been administered. The results for 177 are pending and 1,183 cases have turned up negative, according to the Public Health Branch.