Recognized as an essential business, the Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market will return next month.

It won't be typical of years past, but the event that brings Ohio-sourced produce and meats, among other offerings, will return to 89 N. Center St. June 4 and will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 24.

"Obviously, there's going to be some changes due to COVID and social distancing," said Kate Hinterschied, the market's manager. "We're putting new procedures in place to keep the market as safe as possible and make our customers feel safe."

Hinterschied said the market will follow guidelines provided by the Ohio Farmers Market Network, the Fairfield County Health Department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each Thursday, 4 to 4:30 p.m. will be set aside for senior citizens and people with elevated health risks, Hinterschied said

Additionally, organizers will ask customers to focus on shopping efficiently and swiftly.

Only 50 customers will be allowed within the market's confines at one time to help customers, vendors and volunteers maintain safe social distance.

"The market is going to be set up so that it's U-shaped with an entrance and exit," Hinterschied said. "Everyone is going to flow in the same direction. "

Hinterschied said signs will help direct customers, and hand sanitizer will be available while they shop.

"We're asking customers to sanitize and clean their hands frequently, and to keep at least 6 feet apart.

"I know the market is a very social place. People love it. But this year is a little different," she said.

Pets will not be permitted, nor will reusable bags. Hinterschied said vendors will provide plastic grocery bags.

Aisles will be 12 feet wide, and vendors and volunteers will be required to wear face masks and gloves.

Masks won't be mandated for customers, but Hinterschied said she hopes those who visit the market will wear them.

"We are highly recommending masks," she said. "Also, stay at home if you're sick."

While keeping an eye on capacity, market volunteers also will be observing shoppers, looking for any signs of health issues.

Hinterschied said those exhibiting signs of illness could be asked to allow their temperatures to be taken.

Anyone who has had a fever will be restricted from coming to the market for at least 72 hours after the temperature has subsided.

"I'm looking forward to getting it started," Hinterschied said. "We want everyone to feel comfortable and come out knowing we're taking every precaution to keep them safe."

Additional safety measures customers will notice include the elimination of food samples and cut produce.

The tables cannot have tablecloths and they will be wiped down frequently, Hinterschied said, and separate workers will be designated to hand out sales items, while others manage payments.

Janis Francis, president of the Pickerington Village Association, which oversees the market, said she is "absolutely thrilled" to see the event return.

She said in past years, the event has drawn as many as 700 to 1,200 people a day.

"I'm glad we did meet 'essential,' " Francis said. "It brings fresh food to customers, and those vendors -- there's a lot of those farmers who depend on this for their living."

Hinterschied said there will be 20 to 25 vendors each week who will offer a variety of produce, meats, dog treats and other items.

In addition to the vendors, Francis said Olde Pickerington businesses that stay open during the market hours often benefit from spill-over traffic.

"We have hundreds and hundreds of loyal farmers-market attendees," she said. "We just ask that they please be patient with us.

"We're all in this together and we're all going to be working it out together. It'll be a smooth process as the weeks go on."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate