.Farmers’ Markets Adopt Practices to Survive the COVID-19 Era

The folks who get it together for our bountiful farmers’ markets have worked creatively and smartly to keep the markets safe, functioning, and open. 

It’s a challenge responding to the current shelter-in-place order. Our markets have increased staffing and adapted operating systems so local patrons can access the freshest foods. But there’s another major consideration here in addition to the public welfare. And that’s everybody’s desire to keep our small, regional farms alive. 

“Farmers are a scarce resource in modern times, and we cannot bear to lose them under the weight of this economic hardship,” says Santa Cruz Farmers’ Markets’ Events Coordinator Nicole Zahm

Before the shutdown last month, organic growers had important alliances with local restaurant kitchens. Farm to table dining has long been a fixture for us and a cash flow for growers. But a closed restaurant orders no produce. Certified farmers’ markets are considered essential food outlets and as a result the Downtown, Westside, and Live Oak markets are continuing to operate each week under a new set of market protocols. 

Vendors use gloves, masks and a hand washing station. Gone is the sampling of gorgeous produce. Gone are seats and tables, music, and kids zones. Customers can no longer squeeze every lemon and handle each artichoke. Social distancing requires that vendor stands are spaced farther apart with clearly marked customers lines to help maintain six feet of separation. 

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We need to adapt to this new reality, which is definitely not the social event that shopping the farmers’ market has always been. But we can do this. And if we do, they’ll stay in business and we’ll all wake up together and move on with our freshly harvested lives.


Some savvy growers are converting most of their operations to online. Dirty Girl Produce for example offers amazing pickup boxes of veggies including beans and jarred tomatoes ($40), and salad makings ($20)—free home delivery with a $40 minimum. Or pick up your order on Wednesday at Downtown Farmers’ Market, Thursday at Home restaurant in Soquel, or Sunday at the Live Oak Farmers’ Market. 


Live Earth Farm offers grab and go $20 produce boxes at farmers’ markets, with plans for a customized CSA delivery option on Fridays. Check online with your favorite growers and see if they’re expanding to offer online orders for pickup or delivery.


Love Apple Farm and the New Victory Garden

Join the growing number of foodies who crave the freshest vegetables. Plant a spring tomato garden so that you’ll be able to fuel great salads, sides, and pasta sauces all summer long. Love Apple Farm has streamlined the process for you, from online ordering to having your order brought out to your car. First you preorder from the website. Then you make an appointment to pick up your plants. This limits the shoppers coming in to just six per hour. Only one person can enter to pick up. No couples, kids, or dogs. Stations are eight feet apart to avoid social contact. There is lots to choose from. 

Love Apple Farm, 5311 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley. growbetterveggies.com

Bittersweet Bistro in Aptos has set up a mini market for the community loaded with essentials like milk, eggs, pastas & sauce, paper products, wine and lots of other dinner items. Check out your options as well as Bittersweet’s takeout menu items and half-price wines. 

Bittersweet Bistro, 787 Rio Del Mar Blvd, Aptos. 662-9799, bittersweetbistro.com/bittersweet-mini-market

Lend a Helping Hand  

Woodstock’s Pizza has a “double your dough-nation” fundraiser to help provide food to people in need. Woodstock’s will match every dollar donated. The partnership with the Salvation Army will provide free pizza to people who are sick, health care workers, people who have lost their jobs, and people experiencing homelessness. The goal is to provide at least 800 meals and the community is already halfway toward meeting that, Business Development Manager Emiley Stake says. 


Check out our continually updating list of local takeout and delivery options.


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