RIVER FALLS -- The River Falls Farmers Market was one of the first in the area to open this year during the changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farmers markets were deemed essential businesses and were allowed to open even before the governor’s stay-at-home order was overturned by a state Supreme Court ruling last week.

A handful of vendors were there Saturday, May 16. The full opening of the market is set for June 1, the traditional date.

“When this first started I was wondering if we would be allowed to open or not,” manager Betty Schultz. said. “Then it came out pretty early through USDA that farmers markets are considered essential.”

The market will focus on safety as much as possible, Schultz said, implementing social distancing and other rules/ Customers are not allowed to touch any product at all; vendors are the only ones handling the products and produce.

Products go into a new, clean bag. No reusable bags are allowed.

Hand sanitizing stations will be set up. Masks will be available, though vendors won’t be required to wear them.

The market is stressing the six-foot social distancing recommendation between vendors and customers, as well as between individual vendors. A clean table will be placed in front of stalls to keep the distance.

Nelson Farm displays its goods behind a barrier of rope and chairs on the first day of the River Falls Farmers Market Saturday, May 16. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia
Nelson Farm displays its goods behind a barrier of rope and chairs on the first day of the River Falls Farmers Market Saturday, May 16. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

“In the beginning, it will be fairly easy because the vendors won’t all be there at once,” Schultz said. “I’m a little worried as the season progresses.”

If the number of people increases toward the peak of the season, Schultz said organizers may fence off the market space and monitor numbers.

“I’m hoping it doesn’t get to that,” she said.

The smaller start at the beginning of the year, with fewer vendors and customers, will give them time to work out the bugs, Schultz said.

“I think people are looking forward to the market being open,” she said.

Schultz said she has been working on the topic of opening for several months, and communication with other local market managers and the state association. The market managers locally and throughout the state are taking it seriously. They want the markets open, she said, but they don’t want anybody to get sick.

“We want to keep everyone safe,” she said.

Anyone with questions or recommendations can contact schultz at bellacollina98@yahoo.com.