As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues, even the Worthington Farmers Market has had to create a new normal -- at least for the time being.
One of the city's most popular attractions, the farmers market is operating in a limited-contact, drive-thru format in which patrons order directly from producers and pull up to the Worthington Community Center, 345 E. Wilson Bridge Road, and collect their goods. The seasonal outdoor market usually is set up Saturdays along High Street in Old Worthington.
"It's been an adjustment in our mindset," market manager Christine Hawks said.
Until March 7, it was business as usual for the year-round market, which dates to 1987, Hawks said.
At the time, because it was still in the cold-weather season, the market was operating out of the Shops at Worthington Place, 7227 N. High St.
After Gov. Mike DeWine ordered most businesses across the state to close to limit the spread of the coronavirus -- and those that were open to abide by social-distancing recommendations -- market organizers had to figure out how to cope with the new paradigm.
The market was recalibrated. Customers now are directed to order their goods at worthingtonfarmersmarket.com, and staff members will deliver goods to vehicles, Hawks said. In other words, customers cannot leave their vehicles, browse and physically touch the food items for freshness, she said.
The drive-thru market is open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. The first hour is reserved for senior citizens and those with pre-existing conditions, Hawks said.
During a typical Saturday in the summer season, the market's attendance is 4,000 to 5,000 people, Hawks said.
Erin Wright of Columbus' Short North neighborhood said she likes the new setup.
"I cannot be happier," said Wright, who has been going to the market for 15 years. "I was really worried because I rely on that market for fresh produce, fruit and eggs."
The new system doesn't bother Wright; she trusts the people and the product, she said.
"I've been going there for years so I know the quality and I know what I want," said Wright, the purchaser for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. "I've never been disappointed with the quality."
Still, she said, she looks forward to everything going back to normal.
"It's a huge social event for everyone in Worthington," Wright said.
Kara Aden of Minerva Park had similar sentiments.
"I actually love it," said Aden, an associate at Columbus Metropolitan Library's homework-help centers. "I like to plan things out so this is one of the few things I can plan out in my life."
She said she planned to volunteer occasionally at the market while she is furloughed from the library system.
"I think I just enjoy community things," Aden said.