Farmers Markets & COVID-19
The primary recommendation is that markets operate in accordance with all federal, state, and local guidance and requirements on protecting the health and safety of vendors and customers. Please review the Arkansas Department of Health's Guidances for Large Indoor Venues or Large Outdoor Venues to understand best practices for safely operating a Farmers Market this year. As of now, there is no requirement in the state of Arkansas for markets to be closed in 2021.
To help market managers and others involved with the market's daily operations, our Extension team has created a helpful Q&A resource that details how to safely operate during COVID-19. This document was updated in April 2021 with the most current recommendations from the Arkansas Department of Health. Please visit their guidances webpage for the most up-to-date information.
Selling Safely at Farmers Markets
- Management should monitor and limit the number of customers who access the market at any given time. This will allow for more social distancing and reduce bunching
and grouping of people which can increase the chances of disease transmission.
- It is recommended that market managers place a large container of hand sanitizer that contains 60% or more alcohol at a central and visible location within the market and encourage all vendors and
customers to use it often and when entering and exiting the market.
- Additionally, markets that are open for business should strongly encourage vendors to follow safe hygiene practices such as:
- Not attending the market if they feel unwell, have had a fever or a cough recently, or are experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19;
- Ensuring vendors have access to a facility to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, and posting signage with proper hand washing techniques which includes washing for 20 seconds or more;
- Posting signage, in English and Spanish, around vendor booths with tips on controlling the spread of pathogens including COVID-19;
- Coughing or sneezing into a tissue, sleeve, or elbow and immediately discarding or disinfecting the contaminated item or area;
- Practicing proper social distancing by maintaining a 6-foot distance between themselves and their customers;
- Cleaning frequently touched surfaces with disinfectant often during market hours;
- Suspending all food sampling activities until further notice;
- Offering only “take-home” options for prepared foods being sold;
- Requiring customers to “shop with their eyes, and not their hands” as this will reduce cross-contamination;
- Bagging items for the customer so as to reduce the number of people touching these items;
- Accepting digital-based payment options if possible such as PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, and others.
- Similarly, customers should be reminded to follow safe hygiene practices while shopping by:
- Staying home if they feel unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19;
- Washing their hands before they enter the market and shop for items;
- Maintaining the recommended social distance of 6 feet from other customers and vendors;
- Coughing into a tissue, sleeve, or elbow and discarding or disinfecting the contaminated item or area;
- Not eating, smoking, dipping, or spitting while at the market;
- Not touching items. Vendors should bag items for the customer;
- Downloading and using digital-based payment options if possible such as PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, and others.
- Again, it is recommended to utilize the many digital-based payment options as mentioned above. However, if this is not possible for some vendors or customers, please consider these guidelines:
- Have vendors accept cash but limit the need to make change with the customer by upselling or rounding off to an even dollar amount.
- Also, a glove may be used, but it is a better practice for vendors to properly wash and sanitize their hands often instead. Remind vendors to not touch their face during transactions.
- Consider having one person collect payment while another person handles/bags the purchased items.
- Many markets supply and customers use reusable bags, which are environmentally friendly. Please see this resource from NC State University on properly disinfecting reusable bags.
Additional Resources for Farmers Markets
- Farmers Markets Respond to COVID-19 — Daily Updates and Announcements
- Farmers Markets Respond to COVID-19 — Best Practices, Examples, and Resources
- FMC’s Facebook page is updated multiple times a day with relevant and useful information.
- Statement from their webpage: "Our mission is to improve access to healthy, local foods. We do this through market analysis and data gathering. We are also committed to supporting our members through branding, marketing, and advertising."
- AFMC provides a list of Arkansas farmers markets along with contact information. Consider joining and adding your information to this list. Annual dues: $25
Please reach out with questions to any of Extension's Local, Regional, & Safe Foods team members.