April 24, 2021 — The Florence Farmers Market is preparing to open for its fourth season on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. This year, the nonprofit has fully incorporated COVID-19 protocols into its overall operational structure and has streamlined the process for ordering and picking up orders for those who wish to continue shopping remotely.
The onset of the pandemic last spring caught the market and most other local businesses unprepared to immediately deal with the virus, but the market management team adapted and had a remarkably successful season. Customers were able to order items prior to the normal market hours and simply drove by to pick up their order. While this model of the market was successful, it lacked one of the most important elements of previous seasons — social interaction.
“We are look forward to seeing you all again,” said Joanna Henderson Florence Farmers Market’s new communication coordinator. “We'll celebrate by turning the page toward a more enjoyable and fruitful summer. … We will have all your favorite local produce and products, live music and some limited sampling, as well as the pleasure of reconnecting with you.”
The intervening year has allowed the farmers market to modify the procedures put in place to insure patron and vendor safety. Some of the changes are expected and include the elimination of many of the community extras offered during its first two seasons, including cooking classes offered on site and information booths. One important change from last year will be the opening of market booths, with social distancing, for direct customer shopping.
Henderson said the upcoming season, while still challenging, will be rewarding for both customers and vendors.
“Robust community support and new Oregon Health Authority guidelines, have made it possible for us to enjoy the company of friends and the fruits of our vendors in a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere at our walk-in market, at the corner of Kingwood and Bay Streets.” Henderson said. “The safety of our shoppers and vendors is our number one concern. So, there will be informational signs, and our staff and vendors will be wearing masks. We request that our shoppers do the same to ensure a safe and easy shopping experience for everyone.”
The vendor line-up at the market shifts during the season as the growing cycles of different food crops and the lifecycles of birds and animals dictate availability and attendance.
Many vendors will return for this season despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. They include Estill Farms, The Kurzhal Family and their Kickin’ Pickles, Federated Seafood, L’Etoile and Fair Valley Farms.
There will be additional vendors announced once the market has opened and the shifting COVID guidelines have stabilized.
One of the main goals of the market is to provide healthy, locally produced food products for Florence customers. The distance and time from source to table is always better for taste and nutrition if it is as short as possible, and the market model is often the best way to achieve that goal. One of the benefits associated with this model of food distribution is a personal and regional connection to the foods people eat.
L’Etoile Farms, located in Noti, is a large family farm that grows a full line of vegetables and is certified by Oregon Tilth. Estill Farms grows Blueberries in Drain. Federated Seafood fishes the waters from Newport to Coos Bay to catch and sell fresh, seasonally sustainable and locally caught seafood. Fair Valley Farm is located outside of Eugene and raises poultry, pork, beef and lamb from open, outdoor pastures.
All of these vendors are as concerned with the way in which they interact with the planet as they grow and harvest food for the market as they are in the commercial success of their efforts. In addition, they provide a viable alternative to more commercialized models of distribution where producers and customers never meet.
The Florence Farmers Market management team is prepared for the upcoming season but does have some personnel issues as at this time they do not have enough volunteers. More individuals that wish to volunteer at the market are needed to provide adequate support to the vendors or to customers.
Britte Kirsch, volunteer coordinator for the market, said, “As a non-profit, we rely on the skills, creativity and generosity of our community. The market has many niches to be filled by those who have the time and can help us keep the market vibrant and running smoothly. No effort is too small.”
Returning again this year is the market policy of doubling the purchasing power of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Information on the restrictions and benefits of the program are available at florencefarmersmarket.org, as are updated remote ordering procedures.
Safety measures will be in place for the overall shape of the fourth annual Florence Farmers Market. Changes new for this season include:
Henderson, Kirsch and the staff and crew of the Florence Farmers Market are happy the season has changed, so to speak. They eagerly anticipate the start of the market season on May 11.