How to Shop Safely at a Minnesota Farmers Market

COVID-19 has changed our approach to everything—including farmers markets
St. Paul Farmers Market

Courtesy St. Paul Farmers Market

Part of a quintessential Minnesota summer is heading to the local farmers market, tote in hand. It’s a place to pick up fresh produce, baked goods, jams, soaps, and hot food from vendors. But, many of the social and interactive components we love at markets—the live music, cooking demonstrations, children’s activities—are on pause for the time being.

“Normally people are accustomed to picking food up and looking at it,” said Kim Guenther, communications director for the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association.

That’s no longer an option. While farmers markets are essential grocery providers and up and running, the COVID-19 virus has brought a new set of safety precautions.

The state of Minnesota requires all farmers markets and vendors to create a “COVID-19 Preparedness Plan,” and these plans vary. Some are blocking out specific timeframes for customers who have health issues or may need special accommodations. Others have handwashing stations readily available. Certain markets have created one-way traffic paths for customers.

The popular Mill City Farmers Market in downtown Minneapolis, for instance, will be open until October. Each Saturday, the market runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the first hour of business dedicated to immunocompromised shoppers and seniors. Masks or face coverings are required, and instead of eating or drinking onsite, there are options for takeout.

No Minnesota market is the same, but there are still best practices any customer should follow.

Tips for Attending a Farmers Market

  • If you feel sick, do not attend
  • Wear a mask
  • If there are multiple people living in your household, send just one person into the market to shop
  • Maintain 6 feet social distancing at all times
  • Don’t not touch products—vendors will package items for you
  • Bring hand sanitizer (or use a handwashing stations or market-provided hand sanitizer if available)
  • Wash reusable bags between visits to the market
  • Avoid setting your bag on surfaces while at the market
  • Have cash and electronic forms of payment available

Guenther says food sampling and onsite food consumption are now permitted. However, there are still some restrictions, including capping it at 250 people per designated area, urging customers to follow social distancing practices while dining, and making sure there are lids on samples.

With growing research about the importance of ventilation in prohibiting the spread of the coronavirus, shopping at an outdoor farmers market is a pretty safe option.

“We are hoping that people get out there even though things will look a little different this year,” Guenther said. “We hope people see the value of supporting local farmers and being in a well-ventilated area.”

For updated information on the specifics of your local market’s response, visit their website or use the Farmers’ Market Association’s directory.