Blooming flowers, sprouting gardens and warm days mean that farmers market season is nearing. While most local markets will be open this spring, they will look different than in previous years.

In Wisconsin and Minnesota, farmers markets have been deemed essential to ensure that residents can access food and goods. Kristin Krokowski wrote for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension:

“Farmers markets, like grocery stores, are considered an essential food resource. They may prove to be even more important if larger supply chains are disrupted leading to shortages of agricultural products we produce locally.”

But while most markets will open. they will have to comply with a variety of new restrictions and rules, such as no food sampling, a mandatory six feet between visitors and vendors, plus these can be no eating purchased goods right at the market.

Along with statewide regulations, individual farmers markets are creating their own methods to maintain a healthy space.

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Steve Ottman with the Ellsworth Farmers Market laid out some of the new plans there.

“Ellsworth Farmers Market will start as planned on June 4. The hours will be 4-7 p.m. As of now there will not be any activities in the park. The market will sell fruits, vegetables, baked goods and essential personal care products. Vendors will be spaced out around Crosscut Avenue with no access into the tent by shoppers," he said.

Vendors will provide a one time use bag as they are the only ones allowed to touch the produce. Vendors will have an assistant to handle money only. Ellsworth will have three monitored access points to the market: one from Main Street, one from Wall Street and one from the bank parking lot.

"We will not allow more than 10 people to shop at one time. Everyone's understanding and cooperation are greatly appreciated," he siad.

The Red Wing Area Farmers Market will look more like a drive-thru than its typical open air shopping space.

Lisa Mueller, the vice president of the Red Wing Area Farmers Market Association, explained, “Covid-19 has transformed our market from an open air marketplace to a drive-through, online ordering system.”

Though most markets in the region will open this spring/summer it is possible that they will see a drop in income due to the pandemic. Mueller stated, “There will be financial impacts to both the Market Association and the vendors, but we are optimistic that our new online ordering system will showcase our vendors and their products, in addition to protecting public health and safety.”