The Goshen Farmers Market is creating new ways to stay open in unconventional times.“We had to adjust our operations during the [stay-at-home] order,” said Jo Ellen Davis, Goshen Farmers Market manager. “But being a food-based business, we were allowed to stay open under the governor’s mandate.”
In the first weeks of the stay-at-home order, only food vendors were allowed to sell produce at market.
“So there was probably about half the number of vendors at that time of year that would normally be there, but we were able to remain open every week,” she said.
Additional changes were made to the operations of the Goshen Farmers Market, such as a soft opening on Saturday mornings at 7:30 a.m. for high-risk shoppers and an online pre-order system.
The pre-order system worked by having food vendors let Davis know what they had available that week; when shoppers went online, they could order the food ahead of time. Food was then prepared by Goshen Farmers Market employees who would have it ready on Saturday mornings for pickup. Samples have also been stopped indefinitely.
Some vendors changed the way they ran their businesses, such as Hoosier Mitten Company, run by Zo Wall. Wall began selling masks when she was able to return to the farmers market.
“When COVID-19 hit, I began making masks to donate and began selling some at the market to help cover supplies of the donations,” Wall said. “Orders and sales at the market continued to come in and mask making has been my primary focus since then.
In addition to masks, Wall also sells a few mask accessories.
“I also designed an adjustable Ear Saver strap, to help masks fit better and take pressure off the ears, and mask keeper pouches, which have a zippered pouch to hold clean masks, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and an outside pocket to hold dirty masks. This week, I will be starting on mask lanyards, especially for kids and others who may frequently take their mask on and off, so they can just hang the mask around their necks while not wearing them.”
Even with the changes, vendors do not seem to see much difference in who is coming to the market.
“The summer seems to be more or less ‘normal,’” Wall said. “And often there are people stopping in that say this is their first visit to the market.”
Davis even notes an increase in traffic.
“It definitely seems like more people are buying local … probably because more people are cooking at home, so they’re looking to get more fresh ingredients for meals that they’re making. But it’s been nice to see the community continuing to strongly support all of our vendors, many of them are having, you know, slightly more successful years than they would normally which we attribute to the fact that people are probably cooking more at home than they used to.”
The Goshen Farmers Market is unique in that it stays open over the winter months.
“Our market is a little bit unique in that we’ve got another set of farmers that have been able to sustain doing year-round operations due to greenhouse setups,” Davis said. “And so you still see all the key producers there … Creekside Farm, Fish Lake, Sustainable Greens, Horn of Plenty, Lazy T Ranch and White Yarrow Farm are all there through December.”
Davis is glad for the support.
“We’re glad that we’ve been able to maintain a safe environment during these challenging times for everybody and certainly appreciate everybody supporting buying local,” she said.