June is celebrated each year, not just because school lets out and summer is beginning and the weather is mostly beautiful, but also because it is the month when farmers markets kick off and again we can shop for fresh-from-the-earth produce, planted, harvested and sold all within our community borders.
And in recent weeks, in an effort to help people afford to take home more fruits and vegetables, the Fair Food Network has doubled food stamps –Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — if they are used at farmers markets. The so-called Double Up Food Buck program means that local markets are a more viable option for those searching for ways to feed their families on a smaller than usual budget.
“As a nurse, I am well immersed in social distancing criteria and I am up to date with the Department of Agriculture’s information,” said Jennifer Tiffany, market manager for Lyme Farmers Market. “I know that many other markets are doing pre-orders and drive-thru-shopping-only, but we are not doing it that way.”
Tiffany said that she is trying to keep the new normal as close to the status quo as possible.
“We are very lucky at our market location to have a very large open space for vendors to put up their tents and adhere to social distancing. Only one customer will be allowed inside each tent at a time. It will be a lot more work, but it’s worth it. If individual vendors would like to do pre-order shopping, that is perfectly acceptable.”
Lyme’s market will start up on June 13th and be open each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m at 156 Sterling City Road until October 17. Ten vendors have signed up so far to offer a wide variety of goods from fresh vegetables to artisanal bread.
“I really feel that the community and the farmers need this,” said Tiffany, who is looking forward to the market season and the opportunity to offer the area a little bit of normalcy.
Leafy green lettuces and shiny, just-off-the-vine cucumbers will be in abundance the Chester and Ivoryton farmers markets. The markets are also starting in June, but with much different arrangements than in past seasons.
For one, both markets will have new locations. Chester’s Sunday Market will be held in the parking lot of the Chester Elementary School. The Ivoryton market will be held in the parking lot of the Essex Elementary School. Both markets will be drive-thru, or pre-order only and both markets will be practicing strict social distancing mandates; masks, gloves and bags. (Vendors will not be allowed to put goods into reusable bags).
“These are unprecedented times, so we had to tweak a few things,” explained Chris Shane of the Ivoryton Alliance, the organization that sponsors the Ivoryton Farmer’s Market. “This will be an experiment, but the most important thing is that we keep the market open.”
So far, there are 12 vendors signed up for the revamped Ivoryton market, which will be held Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. starting June 22, running through September 28.
“If this works out, it will definitely be a win-win for everybody,” said Shane. “The farmers are struggling. They still need our business at the markets to make it, and the community is always looking for healthy fresh food.”
In Chester, the market will still be held on Sundays, but without music or live entertainment and the hours will be extended to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to accommodate the added time it will take people to shop from their cars.
Frank Andrew’s Mobile Kitchen will still be there, serving up brick oven pizza, but for takeout only.
“There will be no parking, all the spots will be for vendors and customers can drive-thru and shop, or pre-order and pick up at a downtown location we are still working on,” explained market manager Sue Hotkowski.
Hotkowski said that one of the biggest differences this year will be the lack of the social gatherings that the market is well known for.
“This year, unfortunately, it won’t be a social event, it will be a way to support the farmers and local businesses,” she said
Because of restrictions in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, the market will not be taking any new vendors this year. To date, 20 regular vendors have signed up for the opening, which is slated for June 14.
They will be offering their usual goods, from fresh produce and fruits to seafood, beef, chicken, flowers, bread and homemade biscotti. The season will run from June until October 11.
Hotkowski said that in addition to the pandemic, the Sunday Market at Chester is also coping with heavy construction on Main Street, where the market usually sets up shop.
“Right now, we are trying to be smart. If later on, further into the season, we can move back downtown we will, but we want to be considerate to everyone,” added Hotkowski.
Both markets have links on their websites for people who wish to place pre-orders for pick up on market days.
You can find out more about the Chester Sunday Market here.
You can find out ore about the Ivoryton Farmers Market here.