By Madeline McCarthy
Normally, farmers’ markets are a space for customers to interact with their local food producers and community, sipping iced drinks while watching musicians play. But in the age of social distancing, making that gathering happen is impossible.
On March 20th, Governor Cuomo declared farmers’ markets essential businesses. Local food vendors were allowed to sell their products as long as they followed certain requirements, such as limiting the number of customers at their tables and changing the presentation of their stalls in order to encourage social distancing.
Fast forward nearly half a year, and our vendors have settled into the new way of doing business. We caught up with some of our vendors to see what this means for them, and noticed a trend: for many, the coronavirus has all but slowed down sales.
“My sales have been up 200%,” states Christophe Robert, a local meat producer who runs Longlesson Farm, as he chalks “sold out” next to another one of his products. He notes that since markets are outside and enforcing social distancing, more customers feel at ease. Robert continues, “Customers know that it’s only one person who’s touched the packaging, it’s not a big store where you don’t know where the product has been before it landed in your hands.”
In an effort to maintain these safe production lines, vendors have changed their displays to allow for more visual browsing.
“Usually, I have more of a built up display, but now I make sure everything is spread out and visible, so [customers] don’t have to pick it up in order to admire it,” says Gretchen Tisch, artist and owner of Feathered Antler. She believes that the alterations have changed shopping behaviors, causing customers to make more instant decisions about the products they purchase.
One concern has arisen for vendors that work with outside businesses. When chatting with Trisha Nussbaum from the Food Florist, which specializes in pre-made meals, she mentions that it became harder to acquire raw ingredients, encountering a chicken, pork, and beef shortage due to COVID. Though this has slowed down their production, it hasn’t slowed down their order demands.
“For us, we’re just doing what we always have, but with more ovens,” she summarizes with a laugh.
This week’s recipe: Boston Butt with Gravy