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Coronavirus Update: WVU Extension Service expert offers tips for a safe, healthy farmers market season

From WVU Today:

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As farmers markets across West Virginia open for the season, West Virginia University Extension Service Agribusiness Economics Specialist Dee Singh-Knights provides a few recommendations to help market managers and vendors safely sell their products to customers and allow communities to continue supporting local farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dee Singh-Knights

Farmers markets and other agricultural businesses around the state are able to remain open under the governor’s current stay-at-home order to help provide fresh, local foods to our residents, but not without taking the proper precautions to keep customers and farmers safe.

From Dee Singh-Knights, associate professor and agribusiness economics specialist, WVU Extension Service:

Our farmers should definitely continue to prepare for the 2020 market season. Our state desperately needs farmers to stay in business to provide a local supply of fresh, healthy, nutrient-dense and affordable food products. Despite the current situation, farms are encouraged to remain open for business, but with various changes in how they promote and deliver products to their consumers to maintain safety.

In a farmers market setting, there are several best practices to follow to ensure vendors and customers remain safe. Some of those practices include clear communication about changes in market rules and procedures, redesigning market layouts to allow for additional space between booths, limiting crowds and touch points, providing access to hand-washing stations or hand sanitizer and exploring delivery and pickup options.

Vendors can reduce contact with customers by handling and packaging products for them, encouraging online pre-orders or mobile payment options and limiting the number of customers allowed at the booth at one time. Vendors who aren’t comfortable participating in a traditional market setting can consider alternative marketing options, such as a drive-thru market, curbside customer pickup or no-contact delivery.

Food safety precautions at farmers markets are always important. COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness, but it’s up to vendors and customers to continue with food safety precautions as well as practicing social distancing while in a farmers market setting to help keep everyone safe and healthy. Market managers and vendors should regularly clean and sanitize frequently touched surfaces and items. It might also be helpful for vendors to assign one staff member to a task, such as money handling or food packaging and to remember to clean their hands between transactions.

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