Davis Farmers Market remains open during coronavirus pandemic, enacts extra precautions

Davis Farmers Market remains open during coronavirus pandemic, enacts extra precautions

Photo Credits: Quinn Spooner / Aggie. Empty shelves at the toiletries section at Safeway in Davis.

Davis Farmers Market will no longer have samples, increases sanitary measures like local grocery stores

The Davis Farmers Market is taking additional measures to protect sellers and buyers as the coronavirus spreads throughout California, but remains open during Yolo County’s shelter-in-place order. In order to reduce the potential transmission of the virus, music and events like Picnic in the Park are being postponed until further notice.

An announcement on the Davis Farmers Market website described the actions taken to protect visitors during the biweekly market. 

“The market added a third hand-washing station, and remains vigilant about cleaning all surfaces and vendor tablecloths,” the announcement reads. “Sellers stay home if they are ill.”

Other precautions include keeping sellers six feet apart, pre-packaging goods and removing communal condiments, like coffee creamer. Many of the changes are aimed at reducing unnecessary contact between buyers and items that are being sold, explained Executive Director Randii MacNear. 

“Anything that people used to touch is now restricted,” MacNear said. “We’re not having any samples. We’re trying to keep an eye on the public, and the public in Davis has been very, very cooperative in self-monitoring.”

Market officials encourage visitors to come within the first hour of the market if they are concerned about crowds, and to keep, “an arm’s length distance from others,” according to the announcement. 

MacNear emphasized that, for many Davis residents, shopping at the Farmers Market can bring a level of comfort for the buyers in this uncertain time. 

“Many people are very committed to shopping directly from farmers,” MacNear said. “They know that the produce has been picked — most of the time — the day before and that very few hands have handled it. They know the farmer that will come and sell the produce to the consumer.”

For some, shopping in an open-air market can feel safer than a traditional grocery store, and market officials emphasize that fresh fruit and vegetables can be vital for maintaining the immune system. 

On March 16, California released regulations for retail food and beverage services, including special regulations for farmers markets. According to MacNear, the California Department of Public Health treats farmers markets separately than other food and beverage services because of their abundance in California.

“Certified farmers markets are iconic in the state of California,” MacNear said. “We’re the only state that actually has legislation that authorizes and enforces certified farmers markets as only farmers selling directly to the public.”

One of the regulations includes eliminating, “non-essential/non-related services, such as bands or other entertainment,” according to the California Department of Public Health. For the Davis Farmers Market, that means postponing a beloved springtime tradition — Picnic in the Park — until May 13. A statement released by the Davis Farmers Market describes the reasons behind the cancellation of events. 

“The decision to postpone the extended Wednesday evening hours is prompted by Governor Gavin Newsom’s recommendation on Sunday to eliminate public gatherings of more than 50 people for a minimum of eight weeks, to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus,” the statement read.

MacNear said Picnic in the Park is an ideal environment for the potential spread of a virus. 

“You have 3,000 people that are all sitting right next to each other, listening to music, dancing and eating together,” MacNear mentioned. “We will await direction from the city and from the county about that.”

Grocery stores in the Davis area are also carefully heading the regulations, amid panic-buying and shortages during the coronavirus pandemic. One local grocery store, the Davis Food Co-op, has reduced its hours and increased sanitary measures to provide a safer shopping experience, including providing free gloves for shoppers at the entrance. According to a blog post on their website, the Co-op is also providing opening hours specifically for vulnerable members of the community. 

“We designated the first two hours for our most vulnerable members of our community, which include seniors that are 65 and older, pregnant or otherwise at high risk of infection,” the post reads. “We ask that you allow our older and immunocompromised community members the time and space they need to do their shopping as safely as possible.”

Other local grocery stores, including Nugget Markets and Trader Joes, are practicing similar precautions with increased sanitary measures and specific hours for at-risk populations. 

Written by: Madeleine Payne — city@theaggie.org