Farm-fresh offerings at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market. Photo by Stephen Sproull

The Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market will open its 2020 season this Saturday, April 4, with special accommodations in place due to COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and social distancing.

According to information in a press release issued by Marcia Veldman, Farmers’ Market coordinator for the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, the market will open initially with “an online shopping experience that will allow the market to continue as an essential food source and key component of the local food economy, while following health and safety protocols necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The release continues, explaining: “Shoppers may purchase their preferred products online from any vendor or combination of vendors they choose, and make a single payment for the total purchase online.”

The Switchyard Park Pavilion. Photo by Rodney Margison

During April, market customers will be able to view the offerings from 46 farm vendors and food and beverage artisans via the Online Farmers’ Market website. Shoppers may search either by category or by a particular vendor to find and order fresh farm products, herbs, mushrooms, bread and other pre-packaged artisanal foods, bedding plants, flower bouquets, and more. All online orders must be made by 11:59 p.m. on the Thursday before market day.

Customers will be alphabetically assigned a one-hour window between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the upcoming Saturday for curbside pickup of their purchases in the Switchyard Park Pavilion parking lot at 1601 S. Rogers St. Customers will remain in their vehicles and market staff will deliver their products—packaged and bagged—directly to their vehicle. No market products will be available for purchase on site.

“All recommended Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols will be in place to ensure the safety of market vendors, staff, volunteers, and shoppers,” the press release states. “The market will operate on the online ordering system as long as public health guidelines recommend physical distancing.”

Shoppers who utilize their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to purchase eligible products from participating vendors will continue to be able to do so using the online ordering system. The press release states that SNAP users will receive special instructions for completing their SNAP purchases during the online checkout process, adding that the Farmers’ Market will continue to double the value of SNAP benefits up to $18.

New Vendor Rules

The 2020 season will feature 99 farm vendors and 18 food and beverage artisans, each of which was required to sign an updated contract requiring them to abide by new market rules and guidelines featuring a revised mission statement and rules for vendor behavior. Those rules include, “A prohibition of harassment or discrimination, a requirement that all vendors and stand stand assistants be identified in advance to market staff, and an expectation that ‘behavior outside of the market that relates to the market … be consistent with the mission and goals of the market,'” the press release states.

All 117 vendors who applied for the 2020 season were accepted. However, according to the press release, “Based on their failure last season to comply with certain rules, two of the vendors accepted for the 2020 season received letters reiterating their specific contractual obligations.”

“The support of our local food systems is crucial,” Veldman says. “Farmers and the food and beverage artisans are key providers of essential services during this unprecedented time. The City of Bloomington is committed to local food security, to continuing to support access to nutrition for our most vulnerable populations, to strengthening our local food economy, and to providing safe, effective ways of making food available to the local community.”

For more information, visit the Online Farmers’ Market or by sending an email to [email protected]

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