COVID protocols continue for sellers, buyers
By Ashley Lodato
Spring offers the Methow Valley a host of long-awaited conditions: longer days, blooming flowers, and the beginning of the farmers market season. The Methow Valley Farmers Market opened for its 42nd season on April 10 and will run Saturdays through Oct. 30 from 9 a.m.-noon in the parking area of the Methow Valley Community Center in Twisp, with almost 60 Okanogan County vendors making food, art, crafts and other products available to shoppers.
The Farmers Market, said board member Kelleigh McMillan, “is a fun way to support your neighbors while loading up your bags with fresh food and handmade items. Eating food right out of the ground not only tastes better, it’s actually better for you.”
Everything sold at the market is required to be locally grown and handmade, says McMillan, a gardener and silversmith who runs both the Red Shed garden produce and Kelleigh’s Jewelry booths at the market. Purchasing from Okanogan County vendors is important, she notes, not just for quality assurance but also for contributing to a local economy.
“In the time of Amazon, it is more important than ever to support our local producers and entrepreneurs,” she said. “Especially in this COVID time, it is so important to keep our dollars flowing into the hands of our community. This exchange adds to the vibrancy of our valley and extended county.”
What does “this COVID time” look like at the Farmers Market in 2021? McMillan says that it looks a lot like it looked in 2020.
“We were so pleased with how well everyone abided by COVID safety protocols last season and trust that it will go even more smoothly this year,” McMillan said of the market procedures modified for the pandemic last year. “Our vendor booths are spaced 10 feet apart to allow for social distancing among both vendors and customers. Masks are required and we anticipate that, like last year, customers will patiently await their turn at the desired booth.”
McMillan says that 47 local vendors have submitted their applications to sell at the Farmers Market this year; of these, 11 are new vendors. “We expect another dozen vendors to apply as the season progresses,” she said. “We anticipate that it will be a full market in May with more vendors participating than last year.”
Market vendors who want a permanent booth space at the market are required to show their commitment to the market by attending a minimum number of markets: 15 for farmers and 19 for crafters. This ensures a consistently high-quality, robust market with a range of items.
New additions to the market include a fresh coffee vendor, farmers who are new to the area, and several new crafters who will be joining the market this year, said McMillan.
“We are excited to welcome back a star cast of vegetable growers, orchardists, beekeepers, a bread maker, and myriad craft booths for pottery, jewelry, handblown glass, and woodwork,” she said.
With Okanogan County in Phase 3 of reopening, the Farmers Market hopes to welcome musicians and other performers back to the market, continuing the market’s evolution as a lively community event.
The benefits of eating fresh, locally grown produce are widely acknowledged but it’s equally rewarding to acquire the work of regional artists.
“There’s something special about filling your home with handmade pottery and artwork to use daily, or to give as a gift,” McMillan said. “It feels good to shop at the market.”
For more information about the Methow Valley Farmers Market, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Methow-Valley-Farmers-Market-135274003170399.
Last year, the market opened a month later than usual, in early May, and then only for curbside pickup of pre-ordered items. After that weekend, the market began to gradually re-open to customers under COVID protocols for vendors and shoppers alike.