Lafayette Farmer's Market Officially Opens Under New COVID-19 Guidelines
The first Lafayette Farmer’s Market of the year opened at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, and market coordinator Rebecca Jones gave everyone the same greeting.
“Hi! Welcome to the market,” Jones said, to masked and unmasked customers, to families, and to customers out on their own. “We do ask that you enter and exit the market at the same point, which is right here.” (At the corner of 5th Street and Columbia Street.) “Each of our vendors do have their own lines, which is indicated by the orange tape.”
Jones explained that knots were tied in the tape at six-foot intervals, to show everyone where to stand as they waited to make a purchase.
“Have a great time!” Jones said, and as people entered, she added their number to an app on her phone. Only 60 customers are allowed in at one time. The market is currently operating under a series of restrictions intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Typically, market vendors line both sides of 5th Street between Columbia and Main. On Saturday, 13 tents were staggered along the west side of the street, with orange tape corralling each vendor’s customers into separate areas. Orange tape along both sides of the street blocked people from stepping directly into the market space from the sidewalk.
How were vendors -- garbed in masks, bandanas, and gloves -- adjusting?
“There’s an old saying at farm stands -- I think every farmer has heard this -- ‘Pile it high and watch them fly,’ said Fairstream Farms’s Daniel Fagerstrom. “So there’s this psychological affect, like if you see a huge pile of carrots or radishes, you want to pick from it.”
Fagerstrom said instead of piling it high, they were keeping most of their produce back in coolers, with only a few items out for display at a time to give customers a sense of what was on sale.
“By keeping it in coolers, no one can touch it right off the bat,” Fagerstrom said.
Fagerstrom said sales had been good -- they were selling out of their green onions, radish, lettuce, and chard -- and most people were abiding by social distancing rules.
“I would say the biggest game changer is showing our catalogue up front for customers, rather than -- usually, we have all of our plants lined up,” said Bloomers Greenhouse’s Madeline Moisio. “People get to touch them, smell them, and see what they’re doing.”
On Saturday, the booth’s front tables were covered in pictures and descriptions of chives, rosemary, basil, and thyme.
“This year, we’re trying to be safe as possible,” Moisio said.
Downtown Lafayette life continued alongside the market; cars flowed past the “road closed” sign outside the entrance/exit. A line of customers waited down the block outside Sweet Revolution Bake Shop.
Jennifer Carriere, who said she’s a regular market visitor, carried a paper bag with a newly purchased tomato plant. Carriere, wearing a mask, said she takes the appropriate precautions before heading out to a place like the farmer’s market -- but she doesn’t want to “be scared about it.”
“Listening to the science, being smart, but also still going out and living my life and getting food,” Carriere said.
Rebecca Jones said about 400 people came through the market Saturday; she estimated last year’s opening day drew between 600 and 700 attendees. Jones said customers and vendors alike had asked about changes to the new set-up after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a plan for re-opening Indiana Friday. She said the market would continue to look to the county health department for guidance.