Reynoldsburg Farmers Market successful despite pandemic and construction

KELLEY YOUMAN
editorial@thisweeknews.com
Nancy Dixon (left) of Reynoldsburg purchases produce from Chris Fields of Pheasantview Farms on Sept. 3 during the final Reynoldsburg Farmers Market of the summer season.

Despite a new location and a scaled-back experience, the 13th season of the Reynoldsburg Farmers Market wrapped up last week after serving thousands of shoppers.

More than 6,300 people attended the market's season, which ran from June 4 to Sept. 3, market manager Jennifer Clemens said.

Held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, the market was moved to a new location this year at JFK Park, 7232 E. Main St. instead of its longtime spot at Huber Park because of construction on Davidson Drive.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced other changes, including requiring masks and reserving the first half-hour of shopping time for elderly and vulnerable patrons.

Market capacity was limited to 184 shoppers at a time.

Franklin County Public Health prohibited sampling and vendors were required to provide hand sanitizer, regularly disinfect their booths and discontinue the use of tablecloths and other porous materials, such as baskets.

"Everything changed for us this year," Clemens said. "Location, setup, no pets, one way in and out, making sure we had enough hand sanitizer and masks -- but the hardest thing was implementing the 'no touch' policy. It was hard for market shoppers to understand why they could go to the grocery and touch the produce, but not at the farmers market.

"This market season was a challenge, but I feel vendors did an exceptional job of following the COVID regulations set in place by the health department and helping us educate the shoppers, as well," she said. "Many people were so thankful that we were able to create an environment that was safe and brought a little bit of summer to their week."

Twenty vendors participated in the market this year, Clemens said.

A Schmidt's food truck was on hand most weeks, selling to-go dinners, but seating and entertainment -- such as live music and children's activities -- were curbed in light of social-distancing requirements.

"We would love to see those elements brought back to the market," Clemens said. "It adds to the experience. Like everyone else, we will just have to wait and see what next year brings."

At least one change from 2020 could become permanent: The city plans to survey residents and vendors about whether to keep the 2021 market at JFK Park or return to Huber Park.

This spring, Reynoldsburg spent about $1.7 million to repave and improve a half-mile stretch of Davidson Drive between East Main Street and Haft Drive that runs in front of the farmers market location at Huber Park. The project included the installation of a new storm sewer, concrete curbs and gutters, streetlights and sidewalks and paving the parking lot at Huber Park.

"With the new curbs put in on Davidson Drive, it will be hard for vendors to set up the way we did before at Huber Park," Clemens said.

"Several market shoppers have requested that we keep it at JFK Park because of parking and it was much easier for them to navigate through the market on the pavement."

The city typically sponsors a smaller, monthly winter market from October through March at the senior center, 1520 Davidson Drive.

Clemens said officials are "currently discussing the logistics of what a winter market might look like, ensuring that we are following all of the safety protocols set in place by the health department."

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