Bring Back the Norwich Farmers’ Market Many of you might be aware that the Governor’s Office has closed all farmers’ markets in Vermont. The Norwich Farmers’ Market had developed specific and detailed plans to protect both customers and vendors from the virus while bringing you the local food and products that you need. We feel strongly that we can provide local food safely. Currently the state has allowed food stores to operate while banning farmers’ markets. Many states across the country have designated farmers’ markets to be essential and are open to the public with safety measures in place. Vermont should do the same. It is clear to us that only our customers can help re-open the Norwich Farmers’ Market. If you would like to be able to buy locally produced food in a safe way we urge our customers to let the governor and your state legislators know how you feel about this. It’s important that they hear your voice. https://governor.vermont.gov/contact 109 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05609 802-828-3333
Want to learn more? Below is additional information and guidelines from NOFA-Vermont, an association that supports our farmers’ markets that was developed with input from us and other stakeholders. There is also a link to additional farmers’ market guidelines that NOFA-Vermont has developed that we will use to ensure that our market is safe.
Farmers markets can safely participate in keeping our communities fed by making modifications and taking proper precautions.
Shopping outdoors at farmers markets (or picking up pre-ordered items) proves a safe alternative to grocery stores with tighter spaces, sometimes limited inventory, and a food chain in which dozens of people have likely touched a given food item between harvest and finally being placed on the shelf.
At least 19 states across the country have deemed farmers markets as essential services,
Some of the rules implemented across the country, that would also serve Vermont well, include:
· Cordoning off the market area so there is only one entrance and limiting the number of customers in the market at any given time to ensure proper distancing of shoppers. · Requiring all produce to be pre-bagged and only allowing vendors to touch products. · Vendors wearing protective gear including gloves, face masks, and eye protection. · Discontinuing all activities that encourage socializing, including: music, kids’ activities, demos, seating for prepared food consumption, and more. · Promote strict social distancing measures, including physical barriers that keep customers and vendors at least 6 feet apart.
The decision to prohibit all forms of markets is short-sighted and may actually put certain community members and food producers at risk.
Many consumers and producers are avoiding grocery stores at all costs and prefer to source/sell their food directly.
Many farms are not set-up to process SNAP/EBT benefits themselves - they rely on farmers markets to process those payments. The inability to accept SNAP benefits will make most local producers inaccessible to the most vulnerable Vermonters (and a growing proportion of Vermonters).
Closing farmers markets then forces consumers to travel to multiple farms (who are considered essential services) to procure local food. This strategy increases the number of trips consumers must make and puts farmers at greater risk by increasing traffic to their farm/home.
As larger supply chains get disrupted due to the crisis, our state should lean into the work of building a local, resilient food system that supports farmers and communities.
Now is the time to invest in MORE local control, support community-based food systems, and create MORE access points for healthy local food.
Keeping farmers markets in operation can reduce crowding at grocery stores and increase our food security, particularly if we start seeing grocery stores needing to close or having limited inventory due to the illness.
NOFA-VT, as the parent organization for the Vermont Farmers Market Association (VTFMA), have developed a set of guidelines for farmers markets to operate under drastically modified conditions that prevent mass gathering, enforce social distancing, and limit person to person contact. You can find additional proposed guidelines here.