Area farmers markets reopen, institute new rules

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SUMMIT / WESTFIELD, NJ — Spring has sprung, and residents are ready to purchase their favorite crops, but COVID-19 restrictions have hindered farmers markets. The good news is that the markets are beginning to pick up steam in Summit and Westfield. With coronavirus-related safety measures in place, residents now have corn, strawberries, organic hot peppers and Jersey tomatoes in their future.

The Westfield Farmers Market opened this past weekend at the North Avenue train station parking lot to great success. This new-look farmers market combines online shopping with weekly pickup to keep shoppers connected with local farmers and producers. It will continue every Saturday morning, with pickup scheduled alphabetically by last name, starting at 10 a.m. and finishing by noon.

Customers can place their orders online all week until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday at The vendors will prepare and package the orders on Friday and bring them to the market Saturday morning. Pickup is by car only; car windows should remain closed in the market area. Nothing is available for purchase at the market on Saturday.

According to a Westfield Farmers Market press release, there were just over 200 customer orders for the first Saturday morning and the process went smoothly.
The Summit Farmers Market, which is celebrating its 25th year and will reopen to the public this Sunday, May 10, is hoping to see a huge success as well.

“It’s exciting to realize that the Summit Farmers Market opened 25 years ago with only a handful of farmers and has grown to over 40 vendors, all New Jersey based,” Summit Downtown Inc. Executive Director Nancy Adams said on May 4. “As one of the top markets in the state, an average of 4,000 people come to the market weekly from about 20 different communities.”

The Summit Farmers Market plans to intermesh the best of in-person and online shopping in the face of the coronavirus.

“Summit Downtown Inc. has worked with Mayor Nora Radest, the Summit City Council, the Summit Police Department and the Summit Board of Health to create a safe and healthy environment for our customers and vendors,” Adams said. “Guidelines for the market have been approved by the governor’s office as well as the city of Summit and the aforementioned departments. Safety for all is the No. 1 priority. Many of our vendors offer preordering, prepay and even delivery service. Orders can also be picked up at the market. Our market will still allow customers to choose their own products, but there will be limitations as to the time allowed within the market, the number of customers inside at one time, etc.”

This season’s Summit Farmers Market will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays for 29 weeks. In addition to enforcing social distancing this season, the market has made some other changes.

“We have moved the Summit Farmers Market this year from Park & Shop Lot No. 2 to Lot No. 1, at the corner of DeForest Avenue and Woodland Avenue,” Adams said. “Lot No. 1 is approximately twice the size of the regular market Lot No. 2, allowing us to spread out the vendors more and allow for more space for shoppers to have room to distance from other shoppers. The lot will be fenced off with only an entrance, which is on DeForest, and exit, which is by the alleyway at Woodland, opening, where both will be manned.

“We will be limiting the number of customers shopping at one time; volunteers and market staff will be assisting the flow at the entrance and the exit,” she continued. “Shoppers and vendors alike will be required to wear masks and gloves and maintain 6-feet distance in the line waiting to enter inside the market. While cash is going to be accepted by vendors, all vendors will offer credit/debit card payments along with mobile paying, resulting in touchless exchanges.”

According to the Summit Downtown Inc. website, food and product sampling has been suspended and no food or drink products are allowed to be consumed at the market. Also, only one person per family may shop at the market at a time. Customers are also asked to limit their time inside the market to 15 minutes, and no dogs are permitted at this time.

Adams is hoping everyone will embrace the changes.

“We hope that our customer base can embrace all the safety guidelines for everyone and come on a regular basis,” Adams said. “When and if certain restrictions are lifted, changes may occur. We will monitor operations every week.”

When asked how she feels about the way this experience has changed the way people shop at farmers markets everywhere, Adams has great confidence in the adaptability of Summit’s farmers market.

“This experience has actually highlighted the need for the Summit Farmers Market as an essential source of fresh fruits and vegetables and other foods and needs,” Adams said. “Through touchless pay systems and online ordering, it will offer the customer more options for maintaining their healthy lifestyle. We hope we can get back to the more social aspect of the farmers market, but for now, we can only provide the ability to purchase from our wonderful vendors without the socializing.

“We hope to eventually bring back our baking and cooking contests, which are Sunday Fundays, and live music in the future. Our greater community has always been supportive, and, through their need, we are confident that our market will continue for many years.”

Photos Courtesy of Gene Jannotti