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Farmers’ markets ready for safe return

Farmers’ markets ready for safe return

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WATERLOO — Farmers’ markets in Waterloo, Cedar Falls and surrounding communities will open in mid-May and June offering plenty of home-grown produce for customers — and with COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced last week the open-air markets could open while adhering to state guidelines.

“We are excited about being able to continue serving our community with fresh, and nutritious foods. Maintaining safe market operations for our customers, vendors and staff will be our top priority,” said DaQuan Campbell, Waterloo Urban Farmers’ Market manager.

The market is expected to open from 8 a.m. to noon May 16 at RiverLoop Expo Plaza, 4670 Jefferson St.

Vendors are limited to farm and produce products. No arts and crafts will be sold. No food will be sold to be eaten on site, and markets must eliminate common seating areas. No entertainment, special events or activities will be allowed.

“Vendors are excited because farmers’ markets are valuable and necessary resources for the community, but they’re also taking precautions to stay safe and to make sure customers are safe, too,” said Jessica Rucker, executive director of Main Street Waterloo.

The Cedar Valley Farmers’ Market at Kimball Ridge will be the first market to open May 12. Located at 3025 Kimball Ave., near the corner of Kimball and Ridgeway avenues, its hours are 3:30 to 6 p.m.

The Evansdale Farmers’ Market follows May 13 from 3 to 6 p.m. at 3562 Lafayette Road, and Cedar Valley Farmers’ Market at Shiloh Baptist Church, 3525 Sager Ave., from 3 to 6 p.m. May 14.

“We’re ready for the season,” said Kelly Moore, Evansdale market manager and marketing director for the Cedar Valley Farmers Markets. “We’ll have farm produce, meats, plants, flowers and baked goods, and we will be following the proper guidelines.”

Farmers’ market organizers are still working on plans to space vendor booths six feet apart as well as allow for physical distancing by customers. Hygiene signs will be posted, Moore said. “We’ll have stations for hand washing, hand sanitizers, and vendors most likely will be wearing masks.”

Moore also expects customers will not be allowed to select their own produce at Evansdale and Cedar Valley Farmers’ Markets. “The vendors will be handling and bagging it up for the customers,” she said.

At the RiverLoop Expo Plaza, traffic will be controlled through a couple of entrances, Rucker said. “We want to control how many people are in the market and maintain social distancing. Vendors will have personal protective equipment, and we’ll have hand sanitizing and hand washing stations.”

Picnic tables have been removed to prevent people from congregating in groups or eating at the market. In addition, Rucker said, vendors will encourage credit card payments, although it is not required.

Waterloo Urban Farmers’ Market also is participating in Curbside Market pilot project with Cedar Falls’ College Hill Farmers Market. The online ordering system and curbside order delivery is being funded by a USDA grant awarded in January to the UNI Local Food Program, Healthy Harvest in North Iowa and North Iowa Fresh, said Jodie Huegerich.

“The purpose of the project is to expand our markets’ customer bases. There are farmers’ market-goers and supporters, but there are people who want to come but can’t work it into their schedule. Now they can order their produce online and pick up their pre-ordered items at curbside, or delivery,” said Huegerich, UNI Local Food Program manager and College Hill Farmers’ Market manager.

Huegerich and Campbell, also with UNI Local Food Program AmeriCorps VISTA in addition to the Waterloo Urban Farmers’ Market, will lead the pilot program. Huegerich expects the online service at www.healthyharvestni.com/curbside/ to be especially popular with consumers reluctant to venture out to markets in the wake of the pandemic. The project also includes markets in Mason City and Clear Lake. Cedar Falls Farmers Market will be added in the second year.

The College Hill Farmers’ Market is scheduled to open from 4 to 6 p.m. June 4 at 2205 College St. The Cedar Falls Farmers Market at Clay and Third streets is expected to open June 6. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to noon.

“Farmers are a different breed. Rain or shine, all circumstances, farmers do what they do. I don’t think coronavirus played into what farmers decided to grow. They’re a tough bunch of people who just roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Moore said.

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