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COOS BAY — The Downtown Coos Bay Farmers Market is returning next month, but won't be what people expect.

“This isn’t going to be the typical farmers market,” said Melissa Hasart, manager of the CBDA Farmers Market. “We’re going back to the basics and back to what originally farmers markets were all about.”

The Coos Bay Downtown Association has announced it will kick off its 20th season of the Farmers Market on Wednesday, June 3. The market will reopen with a whole new set of safety guidelines and rules for vendors, staff, volunteers and guests to follow aimed at keeping people safe against COVID-19.

In a press release from the association, it outlined new changes that have been implemented to keep the market open this year and compliant with the state’s Phase 1 reopening plan.

The new rules, which are aligned with virus precaution guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the Oregon Farmers Market Association, include requiring all staff, volunteers and vendors to wear personal protective gear such as face masks and gloves, separating vendor booths at least 8-feet apart and placing ‘safety greeters’ throughout the market to educate folks of the new changes.

“The number one priority during the COVID-19 pandemic is everyone’s safety as we make farm fresh products to our community available in an open-air market,” said Hasart.

The market will operate as a sort of outdoor grocery store to provide community members with essential food services, Hasart added. A return to its roots, the market this year she said will only provide essential, local homegrown products.

There will be no live entertainment, social events or encouragement for people to gather beyond to shop for food. The association is advising community members thinking of visiting the Farmers Market to do so with a plan that incorporates shopping quickly, efficiently and safely.

People are being encouraged to wear face masks and other personal protective gear, as well as to bring their own personal hand sanitizer and to clean and wash all the items they purchased at home before eating. Hasart also added if possible, shoppers are being asked to leave their pets and younger children at home and to limit shopping to one person per household.

Service animals are permitted to accompany visitors and multiple hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer products will be available at booths throughout the market.

The market will be open to seniors and other vulnerable customers only from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and people are being told to avoid contact as much as possible with products and others.

During the season’s peak months, it will usually see about 90 to 95 vendors, said Hasart. This year, in order to follow social distancing guidelines the association had to cut its booth availability in half and temporarily eliminate its arts and crafts vendors, educational booths and other programs and activities.

“We will have our food court, but it will be restaurant-style, take-out only,” said Hasart. “… Our arts and crafts vendors have also been place on a waitlist and as soon as we’re able to get more people in then we’ll do that.”

While some local farmers were disappointed about the delayed opening this year, many of them were also very understanding and supportive of the decision, said Hasart. The opportunity to sell at this year’s market is more important than ever for many farmers who Hasart said were impacted by shutdowns related to COVID-19.

“We are following all the rules so that we can stay open,” said Hasart. “… We are doing everything we can to include everyone we can, but we are limited. The number one thing is safety and I hope everyone who comes can still enjoy the market, but just remember it will very different than any other farmers market before.”

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

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