ASAP’s Local Food Research Center estimates that sales at farmers markets and farm sales to restaurants in Western North Carolina is more that $16 million per year. The sudden loss or severe reduction of both of these market outlets could be devastating for these farms and businesses.
Farmers markets are critical infrastructure to keep farmers in business and support local food systems—as well as providing vital access points to fresh, healthy food in a time of emergency. With careful planning, farmers markets can be as safe or safer than any place where food can be purchased. When people buy direct from growers or producers, virus transmission points are minimized. Farmers markets also relieve pressure on grocery stores by offering more opportunities for the community to access fresh, healthy food.
In Buncombe County, farmers markets selling food products are considered to be essential services and exempt from the supplemental declaration directing the community to stay home. Other counties and states have similarly classified farmers markets.
The ASAP Farmers Market at A-B Tech, organized in response to the COVID-19 emergency, has taken extraordinary steps to ensure public health. These protocols were reviewed and approved by the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services as best practices.
- Social distances are maintained at all times. The venue is large enough to place vendors six feet apart with plenty of space for shoppers to keep social distance from one another.
- The number of shoppers in the market area is controlled. Shoppers queue safely inside their vehicles until they are directed to park.
- No payments are made at market. ASAP is using an honor system with a post-shopping online payment system so that no cash, token, or cards are passed between shoppers and vendors.
- Only pre-bagged and packaged product. Customers do not handle additional products.
- Hand sanitizer is available throughout the market.
- The market is outdoors. There is plenty of fresh air and sunshine.
ASAP can help other farmers markets put these safety measures in place. If you are a market manager in the Appalachian Grown region, contact ASAP for more information.