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Elise Posever grabs some green beans from the Miller Farms stand while shopping with her grandmother, Ginnie Sumner, left, during opening day of the Broomfield Farmers’ Market in June. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)
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This year the Broomfield Farmers’ Market at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church might look different, but the season is not yet off the table.

Dave Carter, one of the market’s organizers, said committee members and volunteers began meeting last month to brainstorm and look at options to reopen the market, which typically runs summer Tuesdays starting in June.

“Now we’re trying to assess how or if we can move forward,” Carter said.

For the past few weeks market organizers have sent surveys to vendors and the public seeking input on their preferences moving forward as the city, state and nation continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers have narrowed down their choices to four options. One is to do a “pick-and-pack” service. Software other markets use for such a service are pricey, Carter said, but organizers found someone who developed similar software that will work if the market goes that route.

People would have to call and order by noon Monday, he said. Vendors would bring products to a central location, where volunteers would pack them into individual orders. Then customers would be asked to come at specified times to pick up their orders.

A second option would be to open normally on June 9, but still following state and county regulations. After talks with Broomfield Health and Human Services officials, organizers determined the market can invite food vendors and possible stands selling herbal products/remedies. Food trucks also would be allowed, Carter said, but people would not be allowed to eat at the market.

There would be no live music, no children’s activities or community booths, Carter said. The number of people allowed inside the market at one time would be strictly limited, with more allowed in as people leave. Everyone would be asked to wear a mask, he said, and there would be hand-washing stations set up throughout the market.

“The idea there is that farmers markets have been deemed essential,” Carter said, “but it’s people buying groceries and going home. It’s not a gathering place, which is what we’ve always prided ourselves on.”

On May 18, Boulder County Farmers Markets announced plans for a staggered, limited reopening of outdoor in-person shopping starting this weekend in Boulder and the following weekend in Longmont, and in June for Denver.

The decision, allowing a somewhat normal customer experience, although with no music, in-person dining or gathering as usual for the summertime events, provides an outlet to a much-needed sales method for local growers looking to get their products into the hands of consumers, according to the Daily Camera. Shoppers will need to make a reservation for pre-approved 20-minute shopping windows weekly, with limited opportunities for walk-up customers.

A third option for Broomfield’s market is delaying the opening until July 15 and seeing if circumstances change enough so the market can proceed like normal, Carter said, and the fourth is to allow food vendors the use of the lot. In that instance farmers could pick a day and time and use the church parking lot space for deliveries.

Some farmers are already going the route of community-supported agriculture packages that directly connects sellers with buyers. Typically people subscribe at the beginning of a season, pay a one-time fee and every week receive a designated amount of produce.

“What we’re trying to do is also work with Broomfield HHS because of the really important things for us is providing access to healthy food for people in the community who are having (financial) difficulties,”Carter said.

Traditionally the market, in conjunction with the city, allows shoppers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to receive double the value for benefits (up to $30 per week) used at the market. Shoppers receiving Women, Infants, and Children food assistance also are eligible to receive $10 vouchers each week.

Sarah Mach, a public health communications specialist with Broomfield HHS, said the department has worked with the market for about seven years. There has been no indication from WIC or SNAP that the farmers market program will lack funding this year, she said.

“We frequently have families asking for more access to affordable, high quality fruits and vegetables for their children,” Alison Long, health promotions administrator, said in a prepared statement. “This is a great program and we highly recommend it to supplement household food stability. Partnering with the farmers market enables us to provide more healthy options for our families, while simultaneously supporting our local farmers. It’s a win-win for the community.”

Carter said until a decision is made on moving forward, the market is working with vendors to get their information, such as if they do deliveries or drop-offs, out to the public.

A list of those vendors is posted online and can be found on the market’s Facebook page. A map is coming soon with pinpoints on where vendors are, and those will lead viewers directly to businesses’ websites.

The market committee is expected to make a decision Sunday  after reviewing survey results.

Vendors offered a variety of opinions, but the majority seemed in favor of delaying the start.

“I was really pleased by the number that said ‘we’re with you whatever option you decide,’” Carter said.

It’s frustrating to be dealing with COVID-19 because it’s the market’s 10 season and organizers wanted to have a “blow out” celebration, Carter said.

“Our mission is to connect the community with healthy food and local farmers,” Carter said. “We want to continue that mission, but a high percentage of our volunteers are in the vulnerable age group. We need to make sure we take care of the health of our volunteers and shoppers that come to visit.”

All options will require a much higher level of volunteer participation than in past years. People willing to volunteer are asked to email Carter at market@holycomforterchurch.net.

Whatever market organizers decide, they want to let the public know they’re still here.

“We’re going to do whatever we can to continue to promote those vendors and make sure they stay afloat through this,” Carter said. “We’ll come back as strongly and safely as we can, whenever we can.”

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