Farmers’ Market still has plenty of fans, despite changes brought on by pandemic

photo by: Elvyn Jones

Abbey Berland wears a patriotic face mask while shopping Saturday, July 4, 2020, at the Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market. Berland bought a bouquet of flowers and tomatoes at her first visit to the market this year.

With a red, white and blue face mask, Abbey Berland, of Lawrence, was appropriately accessorized for the current COVID-19 pandemic and the Fourth of July holiday as she shopped Saturday at the Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market.

“This is my first time here this year,” she said in front of the booth of Pendleton’s Country Market. “We always come here for tomatoes. It’s good to see all the booths back.”

Vendor booths did fill most of the stall spaces in the open-air market’s two parking lots at 824 New Hampshire St. But Roger Flory, who has had a Flory Family Farm booth at the market for nine years, said the appearance was somewhat deceptive.

“There’s about half as many booths as usual,” he said. “We’re all required to park a vehicle beside our booth for social distancing.”

The vehicle requirement has reduced the number of stalls available, but Flory said he was confident any vendor wanting booth space would get it.

photo by: Elvyn Jones

Jonah Seibel, of Lawrence, buys produce Saturday, July 4, 2020, from the Jet Produce and Meats booth of vendor Kathy Jo Simpson, of Tonganoxie at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market.

Customer traffic is also down, said Flory, who has been at the market every Saturday since its May 30 season opening. Because of the pandemic, the market delayed its usual April opening by seven weeks.

Flory, who also has a booth at the weekly Topeka Farmers’ Market, said his business there was “awesome,” noting the Topeka market opened on its regular date with regulations.

Sitting behind a row of wine bottles lining a table, Tom Holland, of Haven Pointe Winery, said the Lawrence market has been a lifeline after the pandemic forced him to curtail normal activities at his vineyard in the Vinland Valley.

“I was forced to shut down my tasting room, and I don’t think I will be able to reopen it this year,” he said.

He has done well this year at the market even with less traffic, he said. He appreciates that customers have almost universally worn face masks as the market strongly recommends.

Nearby, Debbie Sue Fey said her Flowers by Debbie Sue booth was having a good day, despite the market day falling on a national holiday and the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in the county.

“Everybody is looking for a nice bouquet for that holiday gathering — small gathering,” she said.

photo by: Elvyn Jones

Shoppers and vendors all wear face masks Saturday, July 4, 2020, at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, 824 New Hampshire St. A requirement this year that vendors park a vehicle next to their booths has reduced the number of vendors by about half.

To discourage gatherings at the market, management encourages vendors to have an efficient payment system to help avoid customers bunching up at booths. Vendors are also asked not to socialize with customers.

Cathy Jo Simpson, of Jet Produce and Meats of Tonganoxie, said she strictly follows the socialization rules. She said conversations with customers were allowed if no one else was at the booth. She always puts 6 feet between herself and customers, she said.

As for customer traffic, Simpson said that would probably pick up as the two big summer favorites — tomatoes and sweet corn — became more plentiful.

More customers won’t mean more dogs, which have been banned at the market this year. The market has also decided not to have live entertainment, which was a regular feature of years past.

The Saturday market is open from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Customers can also shop the Tuesday market from 4 to 6 p.m. in South Park.

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