OSWEGO — The future of farmers markets in Oswego County for this year is a bit hazy right now.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) had made it more difficult for market officials to plan on how to operate or to operate at all.
So far, Oswego Mayor William Barlow Jr. has postponed the opening of the Oswego market until July 9. Katie Toomey, executive director of the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce – which operates the Oswego and Fulton markets – said work continues to figure out how the markets will operate this summer and fall.
“We are finalizing details based on New York state regulations and will be making formal announcements in the near future,” she said in an email. “This information is evolving and subject to change.”
No information has been collected yet on whether the Pulaski market will be operating this year, said Janet Clerkin, Oswego County tourism and public information director. Clerkin also works on putting together the county calendar that is on the county website, which lists farmers markets.
Central Square Mayor Randy House said his board still is discussing what to do about the village’s farmers market. In a phone message, he said a decision will most likely be made by the end of May.
Central Square has already canceled its summer concert series normally held at Goettel Community Park.
Clerkin also said the village of Lacona is not operating a farmers market this year and instead, is having a community night a couple of times during the summer.
Diane Eggert, executive director of the Farmers Market Federation of New York, said she has heard of only a few markets in the state that have decided not to open this year. She said market officials are working hard to meet guidelines they must follow to open.
“It’s a real challenge for managers to adapt their markets to accommodate the current guidelines they need to operate in,” she said in an email. “But farmers markets have been deemed essential by the governor and market managers have definitely risen to the challenge.”
“Many have worked to develop online sales platforms,” she said. “That way preorders limit the amount of time a customer needs to spend at the market and eliminates the exchange of cash and cards. Primarily, markets are focusing on social distancing and crowd control, which are absolutely key to maintaining a safe marketplace and complying with state guidelines.”
The state Department of Agriculture and Markets has issued guidelines on how farmers markets should operate if they do open for business this year.
The guidelines state:
• No entertainment allowed
• No cooking demonstrations or sampling of products
• No craft or non-food vendors are allowed, except for soap or hand sanitizer
• Vendors should be spaced out as much as possible
• Minimize amount of food on display with customer access
• Increase the number of handwashing stations and make hand sanitizer available
• Manage customer traffic within the market to eliminate congregating and to promote social distancing (six feet between customers)
• Know and understand the Food Safety at Farmers Markets Guidelines
• Signs providing guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19 should be posted in prominent locations.
Ag and Markets officials also stress all farmers markets operators should check Ag and Markets website for updates.
The Ag and Markets guidelines also state all farmers and vendors should implement their own sanitary protocols, including frequently cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and other areas touched by people and washing their own hands.
Farmers also should pre-package raw agricultural products, such as apples, potatoes and onions, as much as possible. All other foods like breads and baked goods must be sold pre-packaged.
Ag and Markets officials also have stressed that online ordering from farms that offer it is a good way to go. Many farms also have Community Supported Agriculture programs, in which a person can sign up to buy a box of produce each week as it is harvested.
Also, anyone who is afraid of crowds that would be at farmers markets could check to see if his or her local farmer sells products from a stand on the farm.
To check which Oswego County farms have their own farm stands, go to the Cooperative Extension of Oswego County website at http://www.thatscooperativeextension.org/agriculture.html and click on the Harvest Guide section on the left side of the page.