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COOS BAY — After a month delay, the Downtown Coos Bay Farmers Market is back.

A summertime tradition for many area residents and visitors alike, the farmers market kicked off its 20th season on Wednesday in downtown Coos Bay.

“It’s exciting,” said Melissa Hasart, manager of the CBDA Farmers Market. “I almost didn’t get any sleep last night because I was so excited.”

A lot different than years before, the farmers market reopened this this week with a new set of safety guidelines and rules for its volunteers, vendors and customers to follow to help stop and slow down the spread of the new coronavirus.

Following precautions set by the CDC and the Oregon Farmers Market Association, booths were spread out at least 8-feet apart and extra tables were placed in front of booths to allow for social distancing between vendors and customers.

Hand washing stations, which were sponsored by Banner Bank, were placed throughout the market and volunteers and vendors were equipped with face masks and other protective gear.

“The community has really come out and embraced all the new rules,” said Hasart. “It’s wonderful to see. I’ve noticed a lot, I would say about 75% of customers, are wearing face masks and many people are social distancing themselves from others.”

For Glen Lehne, of Norm Lehne Garden and Orchards in Roseburg, the market’s opening day was sort of similar to past openings. A combination of warm, sunny weather and steady flow of customers he said made the day feel like any other.

What was drastically different this year, he said, was that at his booth he picked and bagged produce for customers as a way to follow the contact-less rules and social distancing guidelines set up by staff this season.

“It’s different, but it works for now,” he said. “… The customers have been very patient with us and that’s been the biggest thing so far and it’s helped a lot. If you have patience you can make it through a lot of obstacles.”

Next week as another way to promote the new changes and to keep everyone safe against the COVID-19 virus, the Waterfall Clinic will have a booth set up at the market where they will hand out free face masks and educate people on the new coronavirus, Hasart said.

About 25 vendors were in attendance this week which included mostly a mixture of food trucks and food vendors. In compliance with the governor’s executive order and under her Phase 1 reopening plan, no live entertainment, activities or social events were featured at Wednesday’s market.

According to Hasart, along with its layout changes and rules, the market this year is also a part of the SNAP “Double Up Food Bucks” program, a statewide matching program, which helps increase SNAP participants' access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

In collaboration with the Oregon Farmers Market Association, the program allows for the local farmers market to match their amount up to $20.

With the possibility of more restrictions being lifted in the near future, Hasart said the market will adapt with the times and hopes eventually it will become what it used to be. As for now, she said the market will continue to operate as an essential outdoor grocery store, a market that’s back to its roots as a place where farmers and customers can connect.

“I just want to say thank you to the community for coming out and supporting these guys,” said Hasart. “I know our farmers have been really hit hard with schools closing early and restaurants having been closed. They’ve lost a lot of revenue and so I’m happy we’re still able to be have a farmers market this year.”

Reporter Amanda Linares can be reached at 541-266-6039 or by email at worldnews3@countrymedia.net.

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