LIMA — Deemed as essential business, farmers markets will be returning this season but will look very different in some cities.
Bluffton and Celina are the first of the area markets to kick off the season on Saturday. While both are planning to keep the same format with the help of social distancing, the downtown Lima farmers market is planning to switch over to a drive-thru method.
According to its Facebook page, the Celina farmers market will be operating in two different phases. The first phase, beginning this weekend, will only include the selling of food, produce and live plants. Vendors will be set up 10 feet apart while wearing face masks and gloves. This is much how the Bluffton farmers market will be formatted as its vendors are mostly for produce.
Once restrictions have become more relaxed, Celina will roll out phase two, which will include those selling soaps, body products and crafts. That’s also the point at which any special events and hands-on children’s activities will return.
Downtown Lima farmers market manager Jennifer Fickel is still working the details out with vendors and the city to come up with the best strategy for the drive-thru setup when its June 2 start date rolls around.
“I think this would minimize the contact between customers and vendors and create that safe distance between the two,” Fickel explained. “By adding the safety aspect of distancing, we want to make sure the customers feel they can come out since there will be some scared about venturing out and also keep our vendors safe.”
The projected plan is to line up vendors between Spring and Market streets with customers entering on one end, driving slowly through the vendors. The market is traditionally held on South Main Street. Fickel said the key to making sure this isn’t “a traffic nightmare” is having customers pre-order. More information on how and where to do so will be released closer to the opening date.
“We’re going to try this for the first week at least,” she explained. “I hate to be in limbo like this — it’s obviously subject to change — but we’re going to try to do the drive-thru. It’s going to look a whole lot different … the idea is that eventually if the threat weakens, we could probably do more foot traffic and have social distancing.”
Fickel acknowledged that this format takes away part of the charm of farmers markets.
“Even if we do go to where we have more foot traffic, the idea is to keep people moving, not letting them sit around and talk to vendors, which is really sad — that’s really going to be missed,” she said. “A lot of the activities we had last year won’t be happening, but we still want to be able to provide that fresh, local produce and help the local economy the best we can. It’s taking a hit on the community aspect of bringing people together, but that’s just one of the downsides of having to deal with the virus.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.