The Prior Lake Farmers Market will reopen for the season at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 23, downtown with several modifications to help manage the spread of coronavirus, its owner and manager announced this month.
Booths will be 6 feet apart, vendors will wear face masks and won’t give out samples, and food trucks will be around the corner with no tables or chairs to try to limit crowding and lines, owner Karla Haugen said in an interview. The market opens each Saturday until noon.
Visitors can come however they feel comfortable, she said, but she urged visitors to move along their left side of Main Avenue, or clockwise, and use hand sanitizer at the entrances on either end. She also suggested just one or two visitors per family.
“I think everybody’s really excited to be out again in the world with other humans,” Haugen said, adding the open-air market should be a safe space to get some healthful local food and other goods.
The market’s start also roughly lines up with the partial reopening of several downtown shops, which get a boost from market visitors.
“I’m very grateful that people can start being out again,” Haugen said.
The market’s start is a couple of weeks later than normal as Haugen and others decided how things would work; it typically runs from the beginning of May through October.
Health officials and researchers around the country have said the virus can spread through coughing or talking near others, with effects that are most often moderate but sometimes deadly. Distance between people, face masks and being outside can all help prevent or slow its spread.
Haugen said vendors will also be asked if they’ve been exposed to a known COVID-19 case before each market day.
“Of course, when anyone’s sick, stay home, stay home, stay home,” she said, speaking both to vendors and visitors.
Farmers markets around the region are always a big chunk of yearly business, which has been hampered by the pandemic, said Michael Kadow, owner of Great Harvest Bread Co. in Burnsville.
“We’re hoping the markets will actually kind of help even out with our operating expenses,” he said.
Every Great Harvest loaf and bun will be pre-packaged, Kadow said, and shoppers can also order through the company’s website for quick pickup Saturday.
“My hope is that people feel more comfortable and it’s a better environment,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
Jean Davidson, who co-owns Davidson’s Farm with her husband and sells herbs and produce, said pre-orders of the plants have gone well so far as people look for at-home hobbies.
There’s no knowing how produce sales will do as the season progresses, she added, but she and others will keep a good distance from customers and washing hands frequently. And customer selection will be eyes-only to reduce hand contact.
“We’ve got to make it successful,” Davidson said. “I think all of us vendors want to make sure we’re doing what the guidelines say we need to do.”
The safety measures could adjust to Minnesota’s situation over the coming months, Haugen added.
“We’re following the recommendations,” she said. “We’re staying flexible.”