Yesterday, Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered that DC farmers markets and fish markets suspend operations unless they get a waiver from the city. To get the waiver, the markets must submit plans showing how they will enforce social distancing.
FreshFarm Markets, Washington’s largest farmers market organization, has already been making adjustments and hopes to obtain waivers before its four currently operational DC markets (Dupont, H Street, Columbia Heights, Monroe Street) open this weekend. Deputy Director Nony Dutton says the group had already been talking with the mayor’s office about new requirements.
Beginning last weekend, the typically crowded Dupont farmers market began limiting customers, who come in through a single entry point on Q Street, next to a hand-washing station. FreshFarm used caution tape to cordon off the market and had seven managers (as opposed to the usual three) to coordinate the flow at each exit. The team uses two-way radios to communicate about how many people are coming and going. They don’t have a specific limit on the exact number of people, but are keeping tabs on the situation to make sure everyone has enough space.
“What we learned is we need a little bit more signage, and we’re going to readjust some of the footprint and layout,” Dutton says. “Each week, we’re reevaluating, taking more steps and more measures.”
Everything—from bread to produce—is being prepackaged, which means customers won’t be picking up and putting down apples or a head of lettuce. For contactless exchanges, most farmers are offering pre-ordering online. FreshFarm is also requiring all its farmers to wear masks and is encouraging market-goers to do the same. Needless to say, samples are a thing of the past.
“We work with 240 producers across our network, so it’s a lot of communication with them to make sure they’re also taking the appropriate steps and measures to keep people safe,” Dutton says.
Dutton says the group will meet with the mayor’s office this afternoon for further guidance. FreshFarm normally has about 30 markets and farm stands in total across the region, including Silver Spring, Arlington, and Mosaic District.
“A lot of them are up in the air right now,” Dutton says. “We’ve got to reevaluate everything.”