Farmers Market COVID-19: Best Practices

This is page is being updated as new information and resources arise; please check back for updates.  If you have a resource to share, please contact margie@cfaky.org so we can add to this page.

Across the Commonwealth, farmers markets are an essential service within many communities like grocery stores and other food retail outlets. They provide direct access to food for community members and a substantial part of the incomes of thousands of Kentucky farmers. As Commissioner Quarles has stated :

Now, more than ever, we need to empower Kentucky’s consumers to choose food produced by Kentucky’s farm families… Because farmers’ markets are retail enterprises that provide agriculturally-produced food products that consumers need, the Governor’s Order does not require you to shut down your farmers’ market.

Kentucky department of agriculture, Commissioner quarles’s letter to farmers markets regarding covid-19. March 19, 2020

Without such markets in our communities, a key piece of our food system is missing, an additional burden is put on our economy, and food goes to waste.  In order to keep customers, farmers, and market staff/volunteers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, markets must find innovative ways to create social distance while providing their essential services. This resource page outlines recommendations for farmers markets and their supporting partners to accomplish this.

GUIDE FOR FARMERS MARKET OPERATIONS IN THE TIME OF COVID-19: This guide was created by CFA’s Farmers Market Support Program team to help you think through critical questions for your market, provide step-by-step suggestions on ways to set up your market and manage flow, and offer guidance that you can give to your vendors and customers to educate them on best practices for keeping everyone safe and healthy within your market space. This information comes from a variety of resources including the CDC, KDA, FDA, and the Farmers Market Coalition. Information is coming in quickly and we will be regularly updating this manual so please check back to this resource page for the latest information. Last update: 3/24/20

COVID-19 VENDOR GUIDE: This is quick reference, tri-fold brochure that you can distribute to your vendors to help them keep themselves and their customers safe. If you would like an editable version of this guide to make this more market-specific, please contact kristen@cfaky.org.

COVID-19 CUSTOMER GUIDE: This is a quick reference, tri-fold brochure that you can distribute to customers to help them understand how you are keeping their shopping experience safe. If you would like an editable version of this guide to make this more market-specific, please contact kristen@cfaky.org.

April 2, 2020 Update

GUIDE FOR FARMERS MARKET OPERATIONS IN THE TIME OF COVID-19: Updated to include direction about masks for vendors and staff.

March 31, 2020 Update

Kentucky Department of Agriculture COVID-19 Updates This page is a collection of the actions and recommended practices that Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) are taking to contain the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

March 27, 2020 Update

CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE FUND: Charitable grants will fund organizations and programs that have deep roots in Central and Appalachia Kentucky and strong experience working to provide residents with access to food, prescriptions/healthcare, and other childcare and basic needs.

Small Business Grants from Facebook – Facebook is offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries.

March 26, 2020 Update

COVID-19 Guidance Document for Kentucky Home-Based Processors

CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

CDC Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection for COVID-19

On-line Sales Options:

March 19, 2020 Update

Posted March 18, 2020

Farmers markets should continue to stay open while adhering to social distancing guidelines:

  • As Kentucky closes down places in which people congregate in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, farmers markets should be considered essential services in the same manner as grocery stores and be allowed to remain open provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • Farmers markets are a source of healthy food for the community.
  • Farmers markets offer incentive programs that enable households who are low-income to afford fresh, healthy food.
  • Farmers markets should adhere to the Public Order issued by the Department of Public Health on 3/17/2020 regarding public-facing businesses, including posting the required signs at each entrance to the market (required signs are found via the link above).

Basic social distancing measures farmers markets can take:

  • Space vendor booths out as much as possible (ensuring at least six feet of space between them).
  • Manage customer traffic so that customers can maintain recommended social distance, this likely means only allowing a certain number of customers into the vending space at a time and requiring others to queue at least six feet apart or in their vehicles (if they came in one).
  • Have available only whole, uncut produce and pre-packaged foods – no onsite cooking, meals, or samples.
  • Remove or block any sitting areas for customers.
  • Post signs and/or have volunteers on hand to frequently remind customers to keep at least six feet of space between themselves.
  • Inform customers beforehand of the changes and ask that those who are ill to please stay home.
  • Remind your vendors to stay home if they are feeling sick and enforce this policy.

Examples of social distancing at your farmers market:

Innovative ways farmers markets can serve their customers:

  • Have customers order directly from farmers prior to the market and use the regular market as the pick-up time. Payment can be made ahead of time or at the market.
  • Use an online ordering system (e.g. lulus) where customers order and pay ahead of time and use the regular market as the pick-up time. 
  • At pick-up, customers can be queued from their vehicles or items can be delivered to their cars, if driving. Walkers and bikers can be queued in line with at least six feet between each person. Payment can be made ahead of time or at the market.
  • Set up a delivery system, particularly if using a CSA model for any portion of sales. Delivery could be made to individual homes or to accessible locations in neighborhoods, both of which could reduce traffic at the primary market location. Consider whether delivery fees are feasible for your customers.

Ways to maintain cleanliness at farmers markets:

  • Have a hand washing station set up and well-stocked. Have vendors and market staff/volunteers wash their hands when they arrive at the market and throughout the market day.
  • Have hand sanitizer and gloves available
  • Wash hands or use & discard gloves between handling money and handling food. Here are tips for safely using gloves for your vendors. Consider posting this.
  • Use sanitizers to regularly clean items that are frequently touched by multiple people.
  • Have well-placed trash receptacles for used paper towels, gloves, sanitizing wipes, and other trash.
  • Encourage vendors to use tablecloths that can be frequently sanitized throughout the day or to forego tablecloths altogether.
  • Have volunteers available to relieve vendors so that they can leave their booth to wash their hands.
  • Vendors and market staff/volunteers should wear gloves while handling cash, credit/debit/EBT cards, and tokens. Hands should be washed or sanitized before putting on gloves and after removing them.
  • If capacity is available, consider separating duties so that certain people are handling money and tokens (with gloves) while others handle just-food.
  • Round prices to whole dollars to avoid using coins.
  • Encourage vendors to pack their products in plastic bins which can be sanitized or to use liners for cardboard boxes that are either disposable or can be sanitized.

Other recommendations:

  • Post signs for customers reminding them to wash their produce.
  • Review food safety practices and handwashing with vendors.
  • Keep in close contact with your local health department.
  • Find some ways to have fun! Celebrate the fact that local food is available and the relationships you have at the market. We’re in this together and while we should not be getting physically close to one another, there are lots of ways we can enjoy and build our emotional relationships with one another.

Other Resources for Farmers Markets & COVID-19: