In this near-Orwellian time of social distancing, curve flattening, and “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders, we are having even our smallest movements regulated and restricted. Given the dangers of COVID-19, many of these restrictions may be necessary to preserve our public health and to prevent overwhelming our emergency and medical infrastructures. However, the decision to close down Farmers Markets lacks common sense.
On April 10, 2020, the Vermont Agency of Agriculutre, Food, and Markets relayed to Vermont Farmers Markets Managers that they could no longer operate in any fashion based on Gov. Scotts categorizing of “essential” and “non-essential” businesses. This is extreme, and a mistake.
At least one market took enormous measures to create a safer system of ordering and pick-up. The Walloomsac Market in Bennington immediately set up a system for online ordering for all of its vendors, delivery of food and products to a central location, and then curbside pick-up. Many farmers and value-added producers were able to still sell their goods through this system, and market customers could go to one place to pick up locally-produced foods and goods while still adhering to social distancing guidelines. This new system was up and running, and set a precedent for other Vermont Markets to follow.
A system such as the one set up by the Bennington Market is no different than what is happening at many local restaurants, liquor stores, and also the Big Box Stores. So, why Farmers Markets? Here is a list of consequences and issues that come with declaring Farmers Markets “Non-Essential” businesses:
We need to declare very loudly to our representatives in government: Vermont Farmers Markets are ESSENTIAL, especially in this time. COVID-19 has not lessened the importance of these wonderful organizations that promote and support our local producers. On the contrary, Vermonters have an increased appreciation of just how ESSENTIAL they are.
Governor Scott: open up our markets again, and let them continue to provide their most necessary service to our families and communities. Farmers Markets are foundational to healthy and robust communities. Let’s not fail our hard-working and dedicated Vermont farmers and the Vermonters who depend on them.