COOS BAY — With the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers of the upcoming Downtown Farmers Market are looking to how it will operate and when it will open.
“As of now we’re saying that there will be a farmers market, we can’t say definitively that it will open that first week in May, but as things progress we will have a better idea of what we’ll be able to do or can’t do,” member of the Coos Bay Downtown Association Board Beth Clarkson said.
Farmer’s Markets are classified in Governor Kate Brown’s shelter in place mandate as an essential service. Unless that changes, the CBDA still plans to open its summer market as a place for farmers to bring crops to sell.
“Usually the Downtown Farmers Market is the first Wednesday in May, which sounded a long ways away, but it’s getting closer and closer,” Clarkson said. “The market is taking vendor applications, but we are notifying all of our vendors that the market could delay its opening.”
Clarkson said that if the market were to open under social distancing guidelines, booths would be distanced apart from each other.
“There would not be a booth next to another booth. Typically a booth is a designated 10 feet, so we may have to have a vendor in every other booth space so that there is separation."
Leading up to the downtown market season, the CBDA is looking into how other markets are adapting to new social distancing regulations.
“Our farmers market model could be opened with reduced traffic, not as many vendors, and more space between the foods. We’re looking at all kinds of different options. There are other farmers markets that open before ours, and we’re kind of watching to see what they’re doing,” Clarkson said.
The CBDA has been in contact with the Oregon Farmers Market Association as to how to proceed with opening the market.
Many of the vendors who sell at the Downtown Farmers Market purchase a season pass from the CBDA, ensuring them a spot the entirety of the market season. The CBDA is still selling season passes, but has notified the vendors that they be refunded if the season is shortened.
“We’re certainly not going to make them pay for a season pass and then give them a shortened season,” Clarkson said.
Clarkson said that the peak of the farmers market season comes later in the summer when farmers have the best available produce.
“Most of the produce comes in later in the summer. So, losing the month of May might not be a total detriment to the farmers. It is to a point, they have produce that they’re ready to sell, but the bulk of their produce comes later in the season.
According to Clarkson, the goal of the CBDA is not to devastate the local farmer by not having the option of a farmers market, while also making sure that people are safe.
“If we can’t open the first Wednesday in May, because we can’t follow all the protocol that will be in place at that point, then we’ll have push back our opening. You can’t tell the farmers to stop growing produce, they planted a long time before now, so we’re trying to accommodate farmers and the community in a safe way,” Clarkson said.