Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market vendors, patrons persevere during pandemic

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
Roxi Beisel of Pickerington buys flowers from Evelyn Chamberlin, owner of Martha Jane's Flower Farm, while at the Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market on Sept. 10.

It hasn't been without challenges, but organizers of the Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market said this year's weekly event held its own in the face of a pandemic and new guidelines.

Thursday, Sept. 24, will mark the final day of the market's 2020 season. The market is held from 4 to 7 p.m. at 89 N. Center St.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and public-safety mandates announced by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, this year's market was widely different than past years.

Changes included extra spacing among market vendors, limiting the number of customers permitted within the market's designated area to 50 people at one time and regulating foot traffic to flow in one direction.

Additionally, market organizers started the season June 4 by requesting customers wear facial coverings while shopping and later mandated them in accordance with state orders.

"We started out the season with only vendors and volunteers required to wear masks," said Kate Hinderschied, first-year market manager.

"We switched our policy to include customers after the governor mandated masks.

"Although we are outside and have spread the market out, there are times that not everyone is 6 feet apart, so we made the decision to require masks.

"Most of the community has been very supportive of this and we haven't had any trouble enforcing it."

Hinterschied said attendance at the market has ranged from 400 to 800 customers each week.

Vendors numbered 20 to 27, depending on the week. Those numbers are fewer than past years because of the need to maintain distancing on the ground.

Janis Francis, president of the Pickerington Village Association, which oversees the market, said attendance was "pretty consistent" with past years, and she thanked the community for continuing to come out amid different rules and public health and safety concerns.

"We do have a very supportive community and many regulars whose continued attendance each week, sustain the market ... ," Francis said.

"Most vendors have returned for many years -- some have been there the entire seven- to eight-year history of the market -- and the new ones who have joined our market this year are doing very well and hope to be back next year, as well.

"Given the challenging circumstances this year, I am very pleased with the entire market. Kate has done a wonderful job being faced with all of this her first year as market manager."

Hinterschied said "a few" anticipated vendors for this year's market were not comfortable taking part this year because of the pandemic but added, "We had just as many sign up for extra dates due to other events being canceled."

"In the end, it has evened out," she said. "There have been other small obstacles, such as no sampling and tables set up that our vendors have had to deal with, but they have all been very cooperative as they also want to make sure we are keeping our market safe."

Mike Zakany, owner of Jose Madrid Salsa, said the Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market and eight others where he sold his homemade Mexican salsas this summer have been a boon to his 31-year-old Zanesville-based company.

"It's been our best year for farmers markets," Zakany said. "I really think people are getting a handle on buying local and I think people want to appreciate us vendors and they want us to stay alive.

"We've appreciated all the really gracious customers we've had and we've gotten our name out quite a bit more than what it has been in this area."

Zakany said he scrambled to find openings in central Ohio farmers markets in March, when it became apparent the pandemic would linger through the summer.

"We're a company that's always been kind of face-to-face. We did a lot of shows like the state fair, where thousands of people gathered together.

"We saw the need, like a lot of the other artisans, to jump into the farmers markets. Pickerington, from a standpoint of a crowd that's open to different things, this has been a good market."

Pat and Jeff Bartsch purchased fresh honey, corn and maple syrup.

The Bartsches said because of coronavirus concerns, unpredictable weather and a foot injury Pat Bartsch was recovering from, Sept. 10 was their first visit to this year's market.

"I thought it was nice," Pat said.

"We were out of honey from last year. So we thought it was a good time to come."

Jeff said the couple has tried to be "very cautious" about being in crowds during the pandemic, but he was pleased with steps organizers have taken to keep people safe.

"It was very good," Jeff said. "We went out for a drive in my Miata and we drove by.

"We said, 'Oh, they're setting up for the market. So, we decided to get the other car and come back."

Hinterschied said she was uncertain how the market would be received in her first year managing it and with the pandemic looming.

But she said she was pleased with the results and is optimistic the event can be built upon for a successful season in 2021.

"We are looking forward to a time that we can do the extra things like raffles and setting up an eating area with picnic tables, but this year has been great even without all those extras," Hinterschied said.

"A big thanks to the community for coming out each week and supporting these local businesses."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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The Olde Pickerignton Farmers Market is held on the city-owned events lot at at 89 N. Center St.