More Farmers' Markets Are Opening — With Your Safety in Mind

Linnea Covington
Shoppers enjoy the open air during the second week of the Highland Farmers' Market, 2020.
Following uncertainty about when they could open and how it would look, many farmers' markets around town have officially launched; they just look a little different than last year because of safety measures put in place to protect shoppers and workers from coronavirus.

click to enlarge Eat A Peach farm stand. - LINNEA COVINGTON
Eat A Peach farm stand.
Linnea Covington

The Highland Farmers' Market on Sundays is one of many now bringing fresh produce and other foods to Denver neighborhoods, and by 9:30 a.m. over the weekend, it was already bustling with adults, kids, strollers and plenty of vendors. "It's been so wonderful, and people have been gracious and respectful," says market manager Kelly Miller about the new regulations. "It was a process to get permits and work with the City of Denver and the health department, but they were all about us opening and getting the local economy going."

One part of getting the market open on time on Sunday, May 31, was to put into play several regulations to help with social distancing. For starters, there were chalk arrows on the pavement at West 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard marking the direction of flow for shoppers, something those who noticed tended to follow. Groups of shoppers were discouraged, entertainment and booze weren't part of the lineup, dogs were not allowed, and hand-sanitizer stations were set up at regular intervals. Also, nearly everyone wore masks.

click to enlarge The Highland Farmers' Market set up several hand-sanitzer stations. - LINNEA COVINGTON
The Highland Farmers' Market set up several hand-sanitzer stations.
Linnea Covington

A few things had changed for vendors, too. The stalls were at least six feet apart from each other, and passing out unpackaged samples was no longer allowed. Customers weren't allowed to handle the produce at most of the booths, with the exception of Miller Farms, which had adjusted its fill-a-bag stand to minimize unsafe food handling. Shoppers were still allowed to fill their own bags, but were required to sanitize, wear gloves and follow the line in one direction before stuffing a $15 sack with asparagus, yellow squash, peas, beets and other fresh produce. Other stands offered pre-bagged fruit, vegetables and leafy greens for easy access and low-contact shopping.

click to enlarge Miller Farms asked customers to follow a few rules before filling their bags. - LINNEA COVINGTON
Miller Farms asked customers to follow a few rules before filling their bags.
Linnea Covington

"It's definitely different, as we are trying to keep one person doing money and one person doing the food," says Dana Anderson, who was behind the Forte Farms table bagging Palisade cherries and tomatoes for customers. "There's no more sampling, which is a bummer, because customers like that."

At the Garza Farm booth, Rick Garza displayed his brother's pickles, and if someone really wanted to try one of the numerous flavors, he offered individual sealed cups that were packed in the warehouse beforehand.

"I would prefer it if they didn't try it in front of me, for health reasons, but I won't stop them," says Garza, who works as a nurse at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs during the week. Overall, he adds, business has been profitable. "Last week was very good for us, and busy, especially for the market not being advertised."

click to enlarge Rick Garza sells his brother's pickles at the Highland Farmers' Market. - LINNEA COVINGTON
Rick Garza sells his brother's pickles at the Highland Farmers' Market.
Linnea Covington

Garza Farm sells its pickles all around the state at thirteen farmers' markets, so when the pandemic hit, it was unclear how many of those would open. That's why production started later this year, which was, says Garza, really the biggest change aside from extra cleaning and sterilizing.

Mile High Fungi's Michael Nail also had good things to say about the farmers' market business, which he felt was just as good as past years. Abe Perez of La Esmerelda, a stand that's been selling salsas, tortilla chips and burritos for years at local markets, is just happy to see people again and to be out and interacting.

The vendors weren't the only ones thrilled to be at the market again. "I'm glad things are starting to open again," says shopper Jessie Altman, who lives in the neighborhood and was waiting to order takeout from Full Battle Rattle Deli, one of three food trucks stationed.

click to enlarge Mile High Fungi peddling mushrooms. - LINNEA COVINGTON
Mile High Fungi peddling mushrooms.
Linnea Covington

While plenty of the state's recommendations and regulations had been put in place to make the Highland Farmers' Market safe and more sanitary, it was up to the crowd and vendors to follow through. True, not everyone looked down to see what direction they should walk or paid attention to their path as it crossed others', and social distancing from other shoppers proved difficult, even at 9:30 a.m., when the market wasn't too busy. Still, almost everyone wore a mask. To be honest, it gets hot shopping in the sun wearing a mask, but it's worth a little sweat to be outside and doing something somewhat normal and invigorating.

Here are farmers' markets currently open for business. All have rules you're expected to follow, so check websites for up-to-date information on times and policies.

Boulder County Farmers' Market
Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
*reservation required

Cherry Creek Farmers' Market
1st Avenue and University Boulevard
Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Erie Farmers' Market
Briggs Street between Wells and Moffatt Streets in Erie
Thursdays 5 to 8 p.m.

Highlands Farmers' Market
32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard
Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Longmont Farmers' Market
9595 Nelson Road, Longmont
Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
*reservation required

Louisville Farmers' Market
824 Front Street, Louisville
Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Parker Farmers' Market
19565 Mainstreet, Parker
Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

South Pearl Street Farmers' Market
Pearl Street and Florida Avenue
Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Southlands Farmers' Market
6155 S Main Street, Aurora
Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Stanley Marketplace Farmers' Market
Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.