‘No mask, no service’: Shepherdstown Farmers Market to relocate to regular summer location for trial period
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Over the last couple of months, the Shepherdstown Farmers Market has operated under state-mandated social distancing regulations out of Shepherd University’s White Hall parking lot, with a focus on selling preordered purchases, delivered directly to customers’ waiting vehicles.
This Sunday, the market will finally be returning to its regular summer location behind the Shepherdstown Public Library for a one-day trial period. Based on whether or not customers respect the market’s social distancing guidelines, the market may be able to remain in the space for the rest of the summer. According to Shepherdstown Farmers Market President Natalie Friend, the return has been highly anticipated.
“Many customers asked us to move back to the normal location. We understand how a market works, and the bottom line is, people want to see items before they buy it. People want to shop, and I understand that, too,” Friend said in a phone interview on Friday.
According to Friend, the market had to operate up until this weekend under a stricter set of social distancing regulations from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and Jefferson County Health Department, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The WVDA and JCHD have now released a relaxed set of guidelines allowing for a “new normal” market, where customers can wander from booth-to-booth, but cannot handle products. They are also expected to wear masks, practice social distancing, limit conversations with vendors, keep their children with them, not bring their dogs and not hang around in large groups. No music or children’s entertainment will be offered at the market.
The first hour of the market, from 8:30-9:30 a.m., will be designated as a shopping hour for immunocompromised and elderly people. After that, the market will be open to the rest of the public until 1 p.m. Throughout this time, the market will limit its occupancy to 100 people-at-a-time.
“We want people to shop and select their healthy products, but we don’t want people to be tempted to form a crowd and hang out,” Friend said. “We’re aware the farmer’s market has a social aspect to it. That’s one of the things we love about it as vendors, but there will be time for that in the future-we’re not quite there yet.
In spite of the challenges these changes may bring, Friend said the market’s vendors are excited to be able to interact in-person with their customers once again.
“Everyone’s excited,” Friend said, mentioning preordering will continue to be offered at the market. “You’re not in this business unless you love that aspect of it, because you have to give up your weekends!”
According to Shepherdstown Farm Market vendor Megan Webber, along with returning to its space this Sunday, the market just resumed its SNAP program last Sunday.
“Our SNAP program is running; stop by the tent of Peace in the Valley Herb Farm to process your card and receive market bucks to spend,” Webber said on the market’s Facebook page.
To learn more, visit the Shepherdstown Farmers Market Facebook page.