Farmers markets in Havre de Grace and Aberdeen are scheduled to open in the coming weeks, giving local consumers more opportunities to purchase fresh meats, produce and other items outside of their supermarkets.
Such markets are considered an essential business by the state during the novel coronavirus pandemic, as they are part of the food service sector. There are strict guidelines for customers and vendors in terms of food sanitation, wearing personal protective equipment and social distancing, and the markets are not a venue for social interaction as they have been in past years.
They are meant to be an “outdoor grocery store,” said Sarah Rider, a vendor and spokeswoman for the Havre de Grace Farmers Market, which is scheduled to open for its 2020 season Saturday morning.
It will be at its usual location in Hutchins Memorial Park, at the foot of Congress Avenue, along the Susquehanna River waterfront. Hours for the general public are 9 a.m. to noon, but the market will open a half-hour early at 8:30 a.m. so customers who are elderly or have a compromised immune system can shop.
Late Thursday, Aberdeen Farmers Market announced that it had pushed back its opening day a month until June 4. The market will take place in Festival Park at 60 N. Parke St. from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.
“This year’s Farmers Market will utilize a much wider expanse of Festival Park to allow patrons and vendors space to practice safe social distancing measures. Additionally, uniformed officers from the Aberdeen Police Department will be present to enforce social distancing practices,” according to a post in the city’s electronic newsletter. “We thank you for supporting the 2020 season and will take every available step to ensure the safety of all involved.”
Rider is with vendor Flying Plow Farm, of Rising Sun, which sells vegetables, chicken, beef, eggs and plants at the Havre de Grace market. Flying Plow also is a vendor at the Bel Air Farmers Market, which opened April 11.
Many customers at the Bel Air market wore masks, and they stood 6 feet apart while waiting in line to purchase from various vendors. Everyone working at a vendor stand had to wear a mask and remain 6 feet apart from each other. Customers were encouraged to pre-order and pick up their items at the market. Pets are not allowed, and only one person per family can visit.
The standards in place for Bel Air, as well as other farmers markets, were helpful in creating guidelines for the Havre de Grace market, according to Rider, who emphasized that it will not be a place for socializing.
“This is not a social event anymore,” she said. “This is a food-gathering mission, and it’s nice to see people are taking that seriously.”
Vendors at the Havre de Grace market typically gather under the city-provided tent in Hutchins Park, but the more than 25 vendors have been spread throughout the parking lot to maintain social distancing. A map, with links to each vendor, is available on the market’s website.
“At least for the foreseeable future, we are going to use the entire parking lot to space everyone out,” Rider.
While fewer people are visiting farmers markets than prior years, demand for the vendors’ goods has increased, Rider noted. There are multiple ways vendors can get their products to customers, such as pick-up and delivery services — some vendors at the Bel Air market operate storefronts at the their farms or businesses that have been very popular among customers during the crisis.
Working at the market feels “a lot less busy” than past years, as “people are in, they’re out,” Rider said.
“It’s great that it’s open and it’s moving forward,” she said of the Havre de Grace market.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article stated the Aberdeen Farmers Market would open next week. The date has been pushed back until June. The article has been updated to reflect those changes.