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A more limited Baltimore Farmers’ Market will reopen Sunday under the Jones Falls Expressway

The Baltimore Farmers‘ Market, one of the city’s most popular open-air weekend activities, will reopen Sunday beneath the Jones Falls Expressway, but in a smaller and more restricted form that emphasizes the sale of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“This isn’t going to be the downtown Farmers’ Market that people are used to,” said Tracy Baskerville, communications director for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, which operates the popular weekly event.

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”We’re focusing on becoming a food resource only, and the experience will be similar to shopping in a grocery store. There will be no entertainment, no craft vendors, no seated areas for outdoor dining and no cooking demonstrations.”

Changes to the 2020 market — and the decision to postpone the scheduled April 5 opening for more than two months — became necessary after the pandemic caused much of Maryland to shut down. Last month, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young banned all events with more than 250 participants through Aug. 31.

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Other farmers markets, including the popular 32nd Street Farmers Market in Waverly have continued to operate. Their operators reasoned that the markets were an essential source of healthy food for impoverished customers who often have limited shopping options.

But the downtown market remained closed as the peak summer produce season began, Baskerville said, because in previous years the event has mixed elements of a traditional farmers market with the entertainment and shopping options of a mini-festival. On a typical Sunday morning, clouds of smoke wafted from food trucks and family-friendly bands performed for laid-back crowds that typically numbered in the four figures.

“In the past, we would encourage people who visited the market to hang out for a while,” Baskerville said. “This year is going to be very different, and we hope people will cooperate.”

Below are key changes:

  • The physical layout of the market this year is about half the size of previous years, and is contained entirely beneath the expressway. There is one entrance only, off Fallsway at Pleasant Street.
  • There will be 53 vendors, also about half the total of previous years. A partial list can be found here. In addition to produce, items for sale will include eggs, cheese, meats, honey, bakery products, alcohol and flowers. Prepackaged foods also will be available, though there will no food preparation on the premises.
  • Shoppers might have to wait in line. Baskerville said entrance to the market grounds will be limited to 50 to few hundred visitors at any one time. Group size is restricted to four members of the same party, and smaller groups are preferred.
  • Vendor stalls will be spaced 10 feet apart, and foot traffic will move in one direction only. Stickers on the pavement and arrows will direct shoppers to move in a clockwise direction. There will be frequent hand sanitization stations.
  • All vendors and shoppers must wear face masks. No cash will be accepted.

If the reopening goes well, Baskerville said, it’s possible that some of the health and safety restrictions will be relaxed either later in 2020 or next year.

”Down the road, things could change,” she said. “We’re going to see how it goes. This is just our phase one.”

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