COVID farmers markets

LYONS, Neb. — Across the U.S., local and state governments, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are recommending farmers markets to be categorized as essential businesses; therefore, keeping them open with other critical infrastructure, such as grocery stores.

The Nebraska Food Council, with support from the Lincoln-Lancaster Food Council, is aligning with the CDC and other states’ recommendations to ensure Nebraska farmers markets, farm stores, and roadside stands remain open amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Farmers markets in Nebraska are a vital part of our local food system, providing access to affordable, fresh, local produce,” said Justin Carter, project associate with the Center for Rural Affairs. “They are also essential for the hundreds of small farmers and producers who rely on them for their businesses to succeed.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no evidence the virus is spread through food, food packaging, or as a foodborne illness. 

“We believe, based on this information, that farmers markets should be open as scheduled, and can safely do so through the implementation of already existing and widely used sanitation practices, along with the addition of other research-based best practices,” Carter said.

Best practices to ensure safety of consumers and the general public include:

  • Suspending sampling
  • Offering only pre-packaged and whole, fresh produce sales
  • Ensuring all vendors wear gloves
  • Asking customers to not touch produce
  • Implementing pre-ordering and pick-up if possible
  • Adding hand sanitizing stations throughout the market
  • Asking that only one person handle money
  • Maintaining social distancing guidelines for customers, as well as customer density

“Our goal is to provide the public with the assurance that food is safe through implementing research-based best practices for managers, producers, vendors, and consumers,” Carter said. “The safety and health of Nebraskans is of our utmost concern. The opening of our farmers markets can occur responsibly while ensuring access to fresh, local foods.”