The Town Square Farmers Market will again be part of the downtown scene this summer, according to Dawn Rognerud, president of the organization’s board.
The market will be open every Saturday from June 20 through Sept. 26. Vendor booths will occupy the area between City Hall and the former Lyon’s Auto Supply building on North Fourth Street, Rognerud said.
The market hours will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with 8 to 9 a.m. reserved for those who are elderly or have compromised immune systems, she said.
About 50 vendors are expected to participate in the market and many are local producers and artisans who have had a regular presence in the past, selling produce, crafts, baked goods and other food products, Rognerud said.
"It is our utmost priority to provide our customers and our vendors with a safe market experience,” she said of the unusual season.
Customers will notice several changes that are being made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and CDC recommendations.
“We’ve extended the layout of the market so vendors will be spread out, and hand-washing and -sanitizing stations will be located throughout the market,” Rognerud said.
Directional signage, with “one way” cues, will help control the flow of foot traffic, “so not a lot of people are going against the grain,” she said.
Markings on the pavement will remind people to stay six feet away from the front of vendor booths.
Vendors and farmers market staff will be required to wear face masks.
Vendors will serve customers from behind Plexiglass shields and their wares will be placed behind the shields.
"Customers will tell them what they want, and vendors will bag items for them,” said Rognerud, explaining that the measures aim to minimize touching of objects.
While there are added features this year, customers will notice some things are missing.
“We’re not putting out picnic tables and seating, in order to minimize the surfaces that people are in contact with,” Rognerud said.
Musicians will be performing, but audience seating won’t be in place in order to discourage people from congregating, she said.
"It’ll be more like background music," she said.
“Since the pandemic hit and shutdowns started going into place, everyone here at Town Square Farmers Market has been working to figure out what this year will look like for us and hoping we could hold our much-needed market,” she said. “With the ever-growing threats to our food systems, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture has deemed farmers markets essential.”
During planning, members of the Town Square Farmers Market board have received input from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, the North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association and Grand Forks' city staff.
“We were fortunate enough to draw on other markets with experiences, since some have already been open in other parts of the country,” Rognerud said. “They’ve been doing a lot of innovative things. We’ve been watching those, and we take and adapt what they’re doing.”
The state agriculture department did not mandate how farmers markets should be conducted, but did offer “suggestions on how to make farmers markets safe. Their guidelines were super helpful," she said.
Rognerud and other TSFM board members have been collaborating and comparing notes with leaders of farmers markets in Fargo and Bismarck, sharing ideas on how to safely stage the events even as coronavirus has disrupted the summertime staple that so many look forward to, she said.
“We’ll be putting out more information in the next few weeks as plans solidify,” she said, noting that the public is invited to visit the Town Square Farmers Market website, tsfarmersmarket.com.