The Farmers Market Is Back
Now with one-way aisles
Published in June, 2020
On a mid-June Saturday, the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market looked something like it always did -- a colorful mix of vendors and customer, surrounded by bright flowers and delectable produce.
But Covid-19 has meant multiple changes.
Rather than the sixty vendors who might normally be on hand, the market has had to space out its sellers to comply with social distancing rules, meaning only about forty can take part.
When the first few markets were held in May, only about 20 were on hand, says the market's assistant manager, Becky Locke.
"This is not business as usual, and there's definitely a learning curve," Locke says.
The new practices include social distancing for both merchants and customers. The market has been rerouted with one-way arrows on the sidewalk, as well as Xs so that customers can space themselves six feet apart.
Merchants are required to wear masks, and there are hand-washing stations and bottles of hand sanitizer available for customer use. Market hours have returned to the normal 7 am to 3 pm; for the first weeks, they cut off at noon, confusing some frequent visitors who arrived after lunch to find vendors had vanished.
Mark Roby was one of the earliest returnees to Kapnick Orchard, where he collected an advance order from Joyce Croskey and Scott Robertello.
"It's a reasonable start," said Roby, of Lodi Township. "The market is a great community asset. I hope things will loosen up in a few weeks."
There was some grumbling among vendors that the market's re-opened was confusing, and that the new procedures were not adequately explained to vendors or customers.
"How does Ann Arbor know that the market is coming back?" worried Jan Upston of Wasem Fruit Farm.
She also was unhappy that veteran vendors would be limited to only two stalls, instead of the three or four that they have previously used--and were paying for. Locke said she had been working with Upston to ease her concerns.
The market is back to
posting updates on Instagram and Twitter, after a social media absence of more than a month during the stay home order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Many vendors said they were simply glad to be back, no matter the rules. Ferial Rewoldt, who sells hummus, falafel and other Middle Eastern specialties, said she grosses as much as $1,000 on a good summer Saturday.
During the weeks the Ann Arbor market was closed, she was able to supplement some of that income by selling privately and through Argus Farm Stop, which set up an online market featuring local producers.
"We have no problems," Rewoldt said, adding she approves of the market's sanitary steps. "We need to be safe - we are safe."
Carol Brooks, the blueberry seller known for her distinctive blue Volkswagen Beetle, says she has three and a half acres of fruit that she hopes she will be able to harvest and bring to the market.
Since she owns her farm, the business she typically does on summer Saturdays in July and August pays her bills for the year.
Does she think 2020 will turn out okay, despite Covid-19? "I don't think any different," Brooks says.
[Originally published in June, 2020.]
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