The Scandia farmers market will take place this summer beginning June 10, with a few COVID-19 era changes.
The market will change locations and adopt public safety precautions similar to those being seen in retail outlets across the country.
“The city approved our using the parking lot at the community center,” said market organizer Sarah Porubcansky. “So the Scandia Community Center parking lot will be our location this year.”
The market is typically held at the Gammelgarden museum, but the parking lot will make social distancing efforts more attainable and allow for better traffic flow. Porubcansky said the location won’t be as pristine, but that this year is more about utility than it is the social experience of being at a farmers market.
“We’re moving from a community gathering place to a more transactional market,” she said. “We’re an outdoor grocery store.”
The layout of the parking lot won’t allow for a one-way-street style traffic flow, but Porubcansky said the aisles will be more than wide enough for shoppers to maintain six feet between each other. They will only have one entrance to the market, to try to help control the number of people in the market at one time and remind those in attendance to practice social distancing.
“My concern is crowd control,” Porubcansky said. “We just don’t know how crowded it will be.”
She said normally the market is fairly slow paced and relaxed, without elbow-to-elbow traffic.
“But from what I’m hearing markets are busier than usual,” she said. “Because people feel they’re safer, and they like being outside.”
The market will count patrons as they enter and have a limit the number of people who can shop at one time. There will also be hand-washing stations throughout the market and shoppers will be required to wear masks.
In addition to social distancing, the market is hoping to limit the number of cash transactions through a program called green grocery shares. The program was originally designed to help low income shoppers but can also be used to help assist with socially distanced buying. Customers are able to buy ‘shares’ through the program and are given coupons to shop with after a portion of the cost goes to help those in need. For example, if you buy $100 worth of shares, ten dollars would go to the green grocery shares program and you’d receive $90 in coupons.
These coupons will be available at the green grocery shares booth at the market, but can also be paid for ahead of time by mailing a check to Elim Church, care of Elim Grows, at 20971 Olinda Trail N. Scandia, Minn. 55073. There’s a $20 minimum purchase required and shoppers should also include their name and phone number with the check.
“All I do at the vendors when I buy something is drop the coupon in a jar,” Porubcansky said. “So nobody’s touching anything.”
Vendors collect the coupons and are paid out at the end of the day. Green grocery shares is also hoping to find a way to pay vendors via Venmo or other cashless applications to further limit interaction between vendors and staff.
The market will not have any music or other attractions they would have in a normal year and staff is also not encouraging children to attend.
This may be difficult for residents who’re used to the farmers market being as much about social interaction as it is fresh produce, but Porubcansky said limiting features at the market is a necessary evil.
“We’re encouraging people to come alone,” she said. “Have one person come, have a list and get in and get out.”