MANISTIQUE – The Manistique Farmers’ Market will open June 17 after receiving approval from Manistique City Council Tuesday. The market had delayed its typical open date – near the end of May – due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, subsequently, the creation of needed protocols.
According to Kerry Ott, who operates the market along with members of the Manistique Strategic Alliance for Health group, new MFM customer and farmer guidelines have been developed and will be implemented this season. The guidelines will apply to those shopping and farmers participating at the market.
The customer guidelines stipulate:
-Under Executive Order 2020- 60, only the sale of essential items is permitted at farmers’ markets – produce, eggs, cottage foods, pet supplies, vegetable plants, etc.
-While the MFM will be open from 4-6 p.m. each Wednesday, the time from 4-4:30 p.m. will be reserved for those who are immunocompromised, those ages 60- plus, and those who are pregnant.
-Market vendors will be spread out to improve physical distancing. Part of the market will be located on the unpaved part of the Little Bear West Arena parking area.
-There will be no public access to restrooms.
-Market volunteers will control the number of shoppers entering and exiting the market to maintain adequate social distancing. Patrons are expected to maintain six feet of distance from other patrons.
-Those who have been ill or have been caring for or sharing a residence with someone who has been ill in the past 14 days are asked not to shop at the market.
-Customers are advised to wear cloth face covings if medically able. The masks should fit snugly and cover the nose, mouth, and chin.
-No group of more than two people and no one under the age of 16 will be permitted in the market.
-Patrons are asked to sanitize their hands upon entry and exit of the market and wipe down all packaging and wash all produce upon arriving home.
-While service dogs are allowed, no other pets are permitted at the market.
-In addition to cash, both WIC and Senior Project Fresh will be accepted as payment.
Guidelines for the farmers participating in the market are similar to those of the MFM customers, with the addition of a few, including a requirement to sanitize hands after handling money or Project Fresh coupons. The guidelines not that the market is “discouraging the use of gloves”.
“It gets too easy when people wear gloves … they feel like, ‘Oh, I’m fine’, so they handle money and then they handle produce and then they handle money again,” explained Ott. “If they have no gloves on, they’re more likely to say, ‘Oh, I just handled money, I need to use hand sanitizer. Gloves give the wearer a false sense of security.”
Ott noted that, currently, there are approximately seven farmers who are interested in participating in the market.
“Understand that it’s going to be a very different market – there’s going to be a lot more between vendors, the number of people allowed in at a time will be less … there will be cloth face coverings, hand sanitizer,” Ott explained, adding that the market just received a sanitizer donation and will be receiving a mask donation from Masks in Manistique. “We are trying to get all those things in place.”
Ott pointed out that the market is depended upon by Project Fresh participants who rely on it for fresh, local produce.
“That population, in particular, I would hate for them not to have that local option,” she said. “Our small farmers (also) do depend, very much, on the market, and it’s going to be a lower-income year for them, but it would be better than not having anything at all.”
According to Ott, the market area is expansive enough to accommodate all the changes needed.
“We have plenty of room to spread the farmers out,” she explained. “Our plan is to have a table at the front of each canopy that doesn’t have anything on it and then another table behind that one where the farmers would have their items. The customers will just tell them what they want and there would be that distance built in by having that extra table there.”
Ott added that in the case of inclement weather, the market would move inside of Little Bear West Arena, as usual, and limit the number of people allowed in facility at one time.
“Little Bear is plenty big that we can maintain that distance as well,” she said. “It would be a controlled (environment). We would monitor that very closely.
This is not going to be the warm, social event we’re used to,” Ott continued. “This is about them (the farmers) having an opportunity to sell their produce and an opportunity for our customers to have access to local food.”
She pointed out that this year will be the market’s 10th anniversary year – eleventh season – and that it the Manistique “mainstay” would be missed if it was not held.
“We are proposing to open June 17,” said Ott. “Even though we could open sooner, we want to follow, as closely as possible, the governor’s orders … which ends, currently, on June 12. The Wednesday after that would be June 17. That gives us time to get all these guidelines out to the farmers and to the public as well.”
A motion for the market to open for the 2020 season on June 17 passed unanimously by council members.