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Honey is just one of several products locals can purchase at the Montrose Farmers’ Market. The market will have their final winter market today at Centennial Plaza from 10 p.m. to 1 p.m. The 2020 summer season starts on May 9. (Photo provided by Julie King)

Usually when headed to a local farmer’s market, one could expect a friendly, community feel. Although it’s still friendly, and there’s still that sense of community, it has a different feel — a familiar sentiment during the pandemic.

“I’ve been chalking out a 6-foot line between the vendor and the booth so there’s a second line, and then they do the little dance within their booth space,” Julie King, Montrose Farmers’ Market manager, said.

Customers make their requests, vendors bag their produce, and another vendor handles money. It’s a different process from years past, and although they are adhering to safe physical distancing guidelines, feedback has been positive, King said.

“Everyone’s being respectful and going ahead and getting their fresh food,” King said. “There are a lot of regular customers that come through and the vendors are noticing a handful of new customers.”

The market has “shopping advice," encouraging customers to make their trip quick, wash their hands before and after visiting the market, and maintaining a 6-foot distance.

Farmers’ markets across Colorado are set to open for the spring and summer months. The Colorado Department of Agriculture released a statement on Wednesday advising the markets are considered essential business by the state and will serve Coloradans looking to purchase food and agricultural products.

“Farmers markets are a fundamental part of Colorado’s food supply chain, which becomes more apparent in a year like this,” said Kate Greenberg, Commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “Markets offer a great option for consumers to purchase the food they need for their families while supporting Colorado farmers and ranchers.”

The Colorado Farmers Market Association, too, noted the venues will be different this year.

“You'll find that your market manager is asking you to come in, buy your food, and leave, which is different from what we might be used to with farmers markets as a social gathering place,” said Rosalind May, CFMA Executive Director.

Valley Food Partnership, a non-profit organization in Montrose, released a statement, thanking customers for their support of the local community.

“Valley Food Partnership and the Montrose Farmers’ Market, would like to thank everyone for supporting our local farmers, ranchers and speciality crop producers. We understand how important it is to have access to fresh and healthy food during this time.

“We will continue to monitor local, state, and nationwide information and follow recommended guidelines for food and health safety. We hope during this time that Montrose Farmers Market can remain a pillar in our local food system and continue to support the Montrose regional community as well as our regional ag producers.”

King noted she and her vendors have noticed a slight increase in new customers, perhaps to stay out of the grocery store and avoid larger crowds. Either way, they’re helping the local economy, she said.

The City of Montrose has worked closely with MFM, granting three locations to provide a safe atmosphere for customers. Booths are now 15 feet apart, vendors wear masks and gloves, and priority is placed on public health for all Colorado farmers’ markets to ensure a safe environment for those on the hunt for local products. The market has hand wash stations, too.

Colleen Trout, executive director for Montrose Farmers’ Market, noticed something they usually don’t see during the winter markets.

“I think it’s gone pretty well; we’ve had good attendance compared to some years,” Trout said. “A couple vendors sold out. It usually doesn’t happen in the winter market.”

“Last market, we had about 130 people come through during the four-hour time period,” King said. “So that feels like it might be our normal winter attendance.”

Trout indicated customers may be starting to learn more about the food and its safety.

MFM is also working on projects like curbside service and a food box delivery system. Both ideas, though, are pending funding, but would allow the market to reach those who are not able to visit grocery stores during the pandemic.

King and her team are working on a box model that they hope to roll out before the start of the summer season on May 9. This would allow the market to give senior living citizens a chance for produce if they're unable to leave their home.

Like many situations concerning COVID-19, the process has changed. Montrose Farmers’ Market is adjusting, but is still focused on its goal, and that’s to serve fresh, local products.

“We’re just trying to get good food in front of people,” Trout said. “We’re trying to do what we can to make it easy for people and encourage people to shop at the market.”

Montrose Farmers’ Market last winter market is today at Centennial Plaza from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The 2020 summer season starts on May 9 and runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at South Uncompahgre Avenue, between Main Street and South First Street.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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