Rain, new rules fail to squash sales at Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
Roger Graves, owner of Yankee Street Farm in Vinton, Ohio, bags tomatoes for a customer June 4 during the opening day of the Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market.

A little rain and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic didn't prevent spill-over crowds from venturing to opening day of the 2020 Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market.

Throughout the first day of the market June 4, prospective shoppers waited in line a matter of minutes before being admitted to the grounds.

Those momentary delays were the result of pandemic-related guidelines from the Ohio Farmers Market Network, the Fairfield County Health Department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, for now, caps the number of people permitted onto the market grounds at one time at 50.

The lines also were an indication that the market, which opened with 20 vendors and is expected to grow to 25 by July, is a favored community happening.

"I love the market," said Cathy Dodson, who picked up strawberries, jams, dog treats, towels and Ohio-raised meats. "It's local, it gives a sense of community."

Dodson was among shoppers who wore a face mask. Face coverings are encouraged by market organizers but not required, and along with the 50-person limit, are part of the new reality this year.

Additionally, the market has a single entrance and a separate, single exit. Shoppers are encouraged to browse the vendors' tables in a uniform direction.

"It was nice," Dodson said. "They were already running out of stuff because they've been so busy.

"Some of these things you can't really find at the grocery store. They're in short supply. So why not support my local farmer."

Another shopper, Leslie Markworth, said she did not mind wearing a face mask if it would help ensure the continuation of the market.

A regular each year, she said, she was able to find fresh produce and honey and looked forward to her next visit.

Although she understood and accepted the reasons for admitting 50 people at one time, Markworth said, the limit compromised her experience because she shopped swiftly so others could get their chance.

"You can't linger now because of the situation," she said. "Typically, I would've spent an hour or more here."

Market manager Kate Hinterschied agreed, saying she believes social distancing could be maintained if more than 50 people were admitted at a time, but she will continue to follow the agency guidelines in an effort to keep everyone safe.

"I was afraid people were going to be kept away because of the (weather) forecast or they didn't factor it into their day, weren't planning to come," Hinterschied said. "But we've had a small line the entire time -- a steady stream of people.

"Everybody has been very patient and everybody understands. All of our vendors have complied with everything we've asked them to do. It's gone very smoothly."

The Olde Pickerington Farmers' Market takes place from 4 to 7 p.m. every Thursday at 89 N. Center St. through Sept. 24.

The first 30 minutes of shopping is reserved for senior citizens and people with elevated health risks.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate