The produce on sale at farmers markets, reopening for the season all across the Hudson Valley, remains as fresh as ever. That’s great news. But to keep consumers and farmers safe, operators have had to eliminate many features that contribute to the markets’ festive community spirit.
The biggest difference at these much-anticipated weekly gatherings is the drop-off in personal interaction. Prior to this crisis, the markets provided a venue for neighbors to catch up on the latest news and share a few laughs. They also allowed purchasers to converse with the farmers, learning about their operations and output. Now, the general rule is go in, pick up and get out—necessary for sure, just not what we’re used to.
Guidelines at the farmers markets in Rhinebeck and Cold Spring are typical of those throughout the Hudson Valley. One consumer per household (masked, of course) is permitted. Musical and other events have been axed, as have benches. Food cannot be eaten on site. Chalked lines and wider spacing between vendors assure proper social distancing. Conversation with farmers is discouraged and touching produce is verboten.
Many markets, like Rhinebeck’s, are providing special times for the elderly and expectant mothers to shop. The Kingston Farmer’s Market is trying to limit crowding by encouraging consumers to pre-register for a 30-minute shopping slot. Along with Kingston, the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market has moved its location to a site where it’s easier to control access. While the size of the new space in Troy has forced a reduction in the number of vendors, market operators have created a Virtual Farmers Market. It lets consumers purchase produce from more than 50 local farms, with pick-ups at another location.
The Troy market seems to speak for all valley farmers markets, stressing its current “emphasis on farms, food and function over festivals.” It also notes that “Farmers markets are pivotal in the local food access network, linking local produce to consumers in a healthy and safe way, and supporting the local agricultural economy.”
The bottom line: Keeping open the pipeline to fresh, locally grown produce—whose incredible variety makes living in the Hudson Valley so special—is worth sacrificing a little face time with our friends.