Sarah Thurman

Sarah Thurman, manager of the Athens Farmers Market. Photo by Olyn Gee

After its delayed spring opening due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, the Athens Farmers Market will open to the public on Saturday, May 9. Market manager Sarah Thurman provided an overview of the delayed opening day and safety precautions that will be in place. 

What steps will be in place Saturday to protect the health and safety of customers and vendors?

We are asking families to designate one family member to shop for the entire family because access will be limited to 50% of maximum capacity at all times, which equals about two people per vendor. 

In order to shop in the market, a customer will need to wash his or her hands at the hand-washing station and wear a face mask. Face masks will be available for purchase, and hand-sanitizer stations will be available throughout the market.  Customers will be required to stay 6 feet apart, or about two arm lengths, whether in line or in the market. Also, the market has received a donation to purchase face shields for the vendors to wear, which will add another layer of protection.

The market requested that each vendor schedule two employees—one to handle food and another to take payments. Although cash sales are permitted, the market urges customers to pay using a card or a cash app. Also, the market has a list of vendors whose websites accept pre-orders. The customer can order online through the vendor’s website and pick up at the market. 

What steps did AFM take to help vendors during the shut-down period?

While the market was closed, we partnered with Collective Harvest, on a temporary basis, to provide online shopping. Because of the broad array of items offered, customers were able to circumvent grocery stores. The owners of Collective Harvest have been vendors at the Athens Farmers Market, so we are like sister organizations. If a customer does not feel comfortable coming to the market now, we encourage them to check out the Collective Harvest website, click the Online Farm Stand and purchase items for either pickup or delivery. 

How are farmers doing during the COVID-19 crisis?

This is the best year our farmers have ever had. Their biggest problem is keeping up with demand. 

How did vendors distribute their products during the shutdown, especially when many restaurants they normally supply were closed?

Because of the strict local shelter-in-place order, the Athens Farmers Market was one of the few markets in Georgia that shut down. Our vendors sold their commodities at other farmers markets in Georgia or through online delivery services such Fresh Harvest in Atlanta. Some have their own Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription programs.

What are some creative ways farmers adapted to sell their products?

Hearts of Harvest and Ladybird Farm worked together selling CSA boxes, with pickup at Café Racer, located just east of Athens. This was a nice solution for the east side of town.

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