By Christine Bryant
The Westgate Farmers Market will return this summer, but will look somewhat different as organizers work to ensure proper social distancing as they continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the community.
While many favorite vendors will return, organizers are putting into place precautions that will help keep attendees and vendors safe.
“The Westgate Farmers Market Board began developing new safety precautions in early April, with the goal of creating a safe environment for our community members,” market manager Molly Donavan said.
The market will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on the first and third Saturdays of each month, beginning June 6 and running through Oct. 17, at the West Gate Masonic Lodge.
Event organizers have designated 9 to 9:30 a.m. for vulnerable shoppers only, and have worked with the Ohio Farmers Market Network, Ohio Department of Agriculture and Columbus Public Health to ensure other safety precautions have been put into place.
“We have also observed and learned from other markets that opened in May, and have closely monitored guidelines issued by the governor and department of health,” Donavan said.
While residents can expect to see a variety of vendors, from produce, meat and eggs to baked goods, gourmet frozen popsicles and botanical products, they can expect to see several changes as well.
“Due to the current circumstances, we had to make some changes, such as reducing our number of vendors and cancelling special programs and entertainment,” Donavan said.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Donavan says other precautions will include:
● No cash accepted.
● Entry to the market may be staggered to limit crowd size.
● Vendor stalls will be spaced to ensure proper social distancing.
● Vendors will be grouped by the type of product to expedite the shopping experience.
● Vendors will use only new bags to package products.
● Vendors will not use porous materials, such as baskets or tablecloths, for displays.
● No samples will be given.
A mask or face covering will be required to attend the market as well unless it compromises the health or safety of an individual, Donavan said.
These procedures were developed based on best practices suggested by Columbus Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Farmers Market Coalition and the Ohio Farmers Market Network, Donavan said.
“What hasn’t changed, however, is our mission to provide the westside community with access to fresh, locally sourced food and products,” she said.
Organizers also ask residents to stay home if they feel unwell, to only enter and exit the market at designated points, to use hand sanitizer upon entry and to maintain the recommended distance of 6 feet from others.
Attendees should refrain from touching any products, and instead ask the farmer or producer to collect and package any identified goods for purchase.
“For customers who are concerned about attending the market in person, we encourage them to contact the vendors directly to see if other purchasing options are available,” Donavan said.
For more information about this year’s farmer’s market, go to westgatefarmersmarket.com.