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Farmers markets plan for changes

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BENNINGTON — Farmers markets are making changes to their operations and hours while attempting to continue serving the community amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, the Bennington Farmers' Market will host a pre-order, drive-thru market at its summer location, 150 Depot St.

Links to vendor order forms are available on the market's Facebook page, though some vendors were no longer accepting orders by Thursday afternoon.

"In the coming weeks we farmers and the Bennington Farmers' Market will strive to improve this food delivery system in these challenging times," one vendor, Wildstone Farm, of Pownal, wrote in a post shared on the market's page. "We are all in this together."

Pick-up times will be divided into half-hour increments based on customers' last names.

Krista Coombs, vice president of the Bennington market's board of directors, said a small crew will direct cars to the appropriate pay and pickup spots in the parking lot. Shoppers will not need to exit their cars to retrieve their goods.

The market said in a reply to one of its Facebook posts that Saturday "will be kind of a test run" and that it would "continue to post updates as they occur."

"Our goal is to keep the connection between our vendors and customers flowing," the market wrote.

Coombs said conversations after Saturday with vendors and the community would help shape how the market proceeds in future weeks.

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The state is working on guidance for farmers markets with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont and other support agencies to allow for continued access to healthy local food during the outbreak, Alissa Matthews, agricultural development specialist with Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, said on Thursday afternoon. The guidance is expected to be released shortly.

The national nonprofit Farmers Market Coalition has been compiling best practices for farmers markets during the outbreak at farmersmarketcoalition.org/covid-19-crisis-farmers-market-new-guidelines.

The Dorset Farmers Market will change its location and shorten its hours this weekend.

From 10 a.m. to 12 pm. on Sunday, March 22, the market will be held outdoors at the H.N. Williams Store, located at 2732 Route 30, rather than indoors at JK Adams, its normal winter location.

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The market is advising customers to "consolidate your shopping by checking in on family and neighbors beforehand" and to remain at home if they are experiencing cold-like symptoms, according to a Facebook post.

Confirmed vendors include Wood Family Maple, Heleba Potato Farm, Yoder Farm, Chaga Moon, Saratoga Apple, Tall Cat Coffee Roasters and Walnut Hill Farm, according to the post.

Bob Wood, president of the market's board of directors and owner of Wood Family Maple, said the market's goal is to provide fresh food to people in the area who cannot or don't want to obtain it at grocery stores.

"We are a mainstay for fruits and vegetables for a lot of people," including regulars, Wood said. "We want to keep going as long as we can, just so we can get this stuff out to the people."

Wood said the market may set up a drop-off and pick-up system in the future.

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"It's important to support our small farmers in this time of crisis," Billy Brownlee, an owner of H.N Williams, wrote in an email on Thursday. "We have plenty of parking to allow for a small number of vendors to set up in a safe manner."

Ryan Yoder, who with his wife Rachel owns Yoder Farm, in Danby, said that his farm has seen "a little surge" in sales recently amid the outbreak. "With the grocery store shelves stripped, people are very much buying local again," he said.

Yoder Farm will be offering greens, chicken, tortillas, beans, vinegar, onions and carrots at the market.

Kim Bryant, owner of Tall Cat Coffee Roasters, said she has seen a "large uptick in website orders," though her wholesale accounts are down. The farmers market represents an important source of income, she said.

Bryant, who roasts her coffee in an industrial park space in Manchester, has been making doorstep coffee deliveries herself during the outbreak. Even though it is "super time consuming and not efficient," she plans to stick with it, she said.

Bryant also encouraged people who want to support their local farmers to communicate directly with them "and say, 'How can I get what you have?'"

Lewis Waite Farm, of Jackson, New York, will not be attending the market but can deliver orders to Dorset, according to the market's Facebook page. The farm can be reached at 518-692-3120 or by email at farmoffice@csalewiswaitefarm.com.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.


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