Canal Winchester Farmers Market thrives despite pandemic

SCOTT GERFEN
editorial@thisweeknews.com
Christine Gruendemann (left), owner of Crafty Scribe, discusses her handmade art supplies for sale with Susan Grover of Canal Winchester and her granddaughter, Lilanna Stultz, 13, at the Canal Winchester Farmers Market on Aug. 29. Officials said an average of 450 patrons have visited each Saturday since the market opened May 30.

As customers make their way through the Canal Winchester Farmers Market, Scott Banaski and his wife, Tina, greet them with a table filled with Italian biscotti.

They are among about 20 vendors who signed up for this year's market in the middle of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which has changed food-buying habits, including how often, where and what kinds of food people are buying.

The annual market is run by Destination: Canal Winchester. Karen Stiles, the organization's executive director, estimated the event has attracted an average of 450 patrons every Saturday.

"It's been at least as good as it's been in the past," Banaski said. "We know, based on our sales, that we've done at least as well or probably a little better than last year. It just seems like people were anxious to get out and support their community markets."

When the Canal Winchester market opened May 30, farmers markets, along with farm and produce stands, were considered essential businesses under the state's stay-at-home order. However, the venues were required to follow strict guidelines, including designating 6-foot distances between people, ensuring hand sanitizer and sanitizing products were available and offering separate operating hours for vulnerable populations.

To help meet those guidelines, Stiles decided to move the market from near Stradley Place in the historic downtown to the Canal Winchester Historical Complex at 100 N. High St.

"This gives them kind of an open-air situation where they don't have to be in a grocery store and forced to be real close to people," Banaski said.

"Here, you don't have to worry too much about that. There aren't wall-to-wall people in the farmers markets. You're able to spread out and be more comfortable."

The 22nd annual market will be open from 9 a.m. to noon for two more sessions -- Sept. 19 and 26. Those older than 60 or who have underlying health conditions are encouraged to shop before 9:30 a.m.

"It just has been a really charming location to hold the market," Stiles said.

This year's vendors have been selling homemade breads and other baked goods, granola, jams, jellies, honey, eggs, beef, pork, cheese, fresh produce, fresh flowers and more, she said.

"Sales have been really strong for our vendors," Stiles said. "I think people love the new location and I think it's doing well because people want to get out of the house and support the local market. It's one thing that's going on."

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews

Patrons browse the vendor booths at the Canal Winchester Farmers Market on Aug. 29. Officials said an average of 450 patrons have visited each Saturday since the market opened May 30.