MUSCATINE, Iowa–In March, the COVID-19 pandemic began upending the way people conduct every type of business. Not even sure Governor Kim Reynolds would allow markets to open this season, Muscatine Area Farmers Market Manager Jennifer DeFosse watched the news closely and began making plans for a very different sort of farmers market. “We knew we needed to make some changes to accommodate the COVID-19 virus and we needed to procure some items, such as hand sanitizer and face masks, which we knew would be hard to procure,” recalls DeFosse.
In order to plan out how this year’s market would work and to acquire the supplies vendors would need for safety and sanitation, DeFosse moved the market’s open date to June 2. Now that June has arrived, the market has opened, with a number of new procedures in place aimed at keeping shoppers and vendors safer.
In compliance with the governor’s public health disaster declaration proclamation, the market will consist of food vendors only. Unlike in past years, the market will have no outdoor music, fitness or kids programs, cooking demonstrations, or sample stations.
To help prevent transmission of the virus, DeFosse asks all vendors and shoppers to wear a mask and to stay at least six feet apart as much as possible. She also requests people not bring pets to the market. To reduce the amount of person to person contact, more vendors will utilize PayPal and other virtual payment methods. Vendors will also not allow shoppers to use reusable bags of coffee cups. Hand sanitizer at each table will allow everyone do clean their hands whenever they need to.
However, many things about the market will remain the same. Through the end of October, the Muscatine Area Farmers Market will operate on its usual days, Tuesdays from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Local farmers will continue to sell in season produce, and area bakers will still have their tasty creations for sale. “It’s still the healthiest, freshest, produce you can get,” emphasized DeFosse.
Additionally, DeFosse says the market will provide a chance for farmers to sell produce at an economically challenging time for them, and to continue to participate in the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, which helps provide fresh food to people who receive food assistance. “I am so grateful we get to open–our farmers are definitely struggling,” stated Defosse. “I don’t know how our farmers would have survived without markets.”