Over the last couple of months, essential businesses remained open while non-essential businesses were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Included in the list of essential businesses in Florida was farmers’ markets.
Unlike many in Alachua County, Haile Farmers Market stayed open.
Owner of Boondox Tropicals Eric Bjerregaard sells produce at Haile Farmers Market on the weekends and said although the market remained open, he noticed a drop in attendance.
“A lot of the customers that were just, they come out and they get breakfast and get coffee, they buy a few things, make impulse purchases, we lost that,” he said. “The people who came out here, came just to really to buy food or buy my plants or something, that stayed relatively normal.”
Frog Song Organics Co-Founder Amy Van Scoik began selling produce at Haile Farmers Market when other markets in the county voluntarily closed.
“People would rather come here than go to the grocery stores, so we have a number of regulars that come and we also have people picking up orders that they do online so they can get in and out quickly,” Van Scoik said.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, farmers have given customers convenient options to obtain their produce safely. Alachua County Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler is impressed with how farmers have persevered to serve the community.
“We’re supporting a lifestyle that we want to make sure is maintained and supported. Our young working family farms provide an opportunity for our families to go and participate with them too and so [that] our young people, our children can see actually where their food is coming from,” Wheeler said.
Aside from farmers and food-selling vendors, some were forced to resign their booths to accommodate social distancing requirements.
“We were deemed nonessential so most of us were just working at home or were working on orders from the house but we weren’t here at the market,” ‘Stones and Shells’ crafter Genie O’Brien said.
Since then, O’Brien has reopened her table at the market.
Commissioner Wheeler advises market-goers that even if you are outside in open air to maintain social distance recommendations.
“We’re not trying to socially distance ourselves we’re just trying to physically distance ourselves so if you can’t physically distance yourself then you should be wearing a mask if you’re in groups of people,” Wheeler said.
As for food safety, Van Scoik advises customers to always wash produce before eating.
“In general filling your sink up with cold water and plunging produce to let any sand and dirt fall off down into the bottom of the sink is a good way to do it,” Van Scoik said.
Even though coronavirus cases are rising in Florida, local farmers are encouraging residents to support markets, aid neighbors with grocery trips, and maintain distance from others while you’re out. As during the shutdown, Haile Farmers Market is open on Saturdays from 8:30 to noon.