Farmers Markets adapting to the pandemic

Lynne McDonald is no banana when it comes to bunching at Mullum Farmers Market.

By Eve Jeffery

My grandmother used to say that if you always want a job, work with food. Well, she was partly right. Though a lot of prepared food sellers have been shut down, those who sell fresh produce are still in the market place. Literally.
Manager of the Byron Farmers Market, Tom Carey, said they are travelling really well. ‘We responded to coronavirus quickly and we have continued to monitor and adjust in line with government regulations’, he says.
Mr Carey says that farmers, producers and customers alike have adjusted really well on the whole. ‘Things like having wash stations and hand sanitiser at every stall and distributed throughout the marketplace, introducing 1.5m social distancing, no tables or seating, and asking people to shop alone, and shop and go, have helped.’
Mr Carey also said they introduced a one-person-per-household policy at Byron and Bangalow markets to better facilitate safe social distancing.
Manager of the Mullumbimby and New Brighton Farmers Markets, Allie Godfrey, said the shoppers have been happy and friendly. ‘Everyone is grateful we’re open and that they have an alternative place to source their weekly shopping that’s out in the fresh air and sunshine. People are in general very cooperative and happy to adhere to the new rules.’
Ms Godfrey says they’ve put a lot of hard work into making the markets a safe space to shop, and feel farmers markets in general have been ahead of the game in terms of implementing health and safety measures in response to COVID-19.
‘We are providing hand washing and sanitising stations and all stallholders are using sanitiser between each customer. There are new money handling systems to minimise contact, and stalls have been rearranged to enable easy social distancing, with lines showing appropriate distancing and takeaway food being taken home to be consumed.’
Ms Godfrey said that each week is getting easier as people become accustomed to the new way of doing things. ‘It’s quite a big adjustment, as the markets have always been about hugs, and hanging out, and catching up with friends and your community. Some people are probably beginning to relax a bit as we continue to hear how low infection rates are, but the message we try and get across is that the livelihoods of our local farmers are at stake here.
‘Our number one priority is to keep the market open for our farmers, for our community and to ensure our local food security is maintained.’
Ms Godfrey says that the markets are also doing well. ‘Our customers have helped make it easier for us by cooperating with our new rules and by continuing to support the market’, she says.
Both Allie and Tom agree that the vibe of the markets has changed since the COVID-19 restrictions started. ‘Traditionally, the farmers market has always been a bit of a social hub – a place for our community to not only buy fresh produce direct from our local farmers, but also to come together, sit, relax, eat and listen to live music,’ said Tom. ‘Since the pandemic began the market doesn’t have that usual buzzy vibe, but it still feels positive.
‘People are just happy to be able to get out of the house and come and shop outside. While there may not be the usual hugs happening, there are plenty of smiles going around.’

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