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Sioux City Farmers Market Will Open In May; Vendors Will Take Extra Precautions

Sioux City Farmers Market Facebook page
The Sioux City Farmers Market, which operates on Wednesdays and Sundays in May through October, normally has music, tables to sit at and chalk for kids to draw with. But it won't have any of that because of COVID-19.

Farmers markets like Sioux City’s will have a different feel when they open for the season. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation last week allowing farmers markets to move ahead, but with limited operations because of the novel coronavirus.
The Sioux City Farmers Market, which operates on Wednesdays and Sundays in May through October, normally has music, tables to sit at and chalk for kids to draw with. But Roger Caudron, the secretary and treasurer for the nonprofit board that oversees the Sioux City Farmers Market, said there will be none of that when the market opens May 6. It will not have a festival atmosphere and instead will feel more like a transactional marketplace, Caudron said.

“We want you to stop in, we want you to shop, and go home,” Caudron said.

The Sioux City Farmers Market will only have food and farm vendors under the governor’s order. Typically they’d have two handwashing stations, but now they’ll have six sinks around the market. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed around the market as well. They purchased 3,000 gloves and 100 locally-produced masks for vendors, who will wear gloves and masks at all times. The vendors will be the only ones allowed to handle the food.

“Somebody will point out which tomato they want,” Caudron said, “the gloved hand will pick it up, put it in a plastic bag, and then a second person for the individual vendor will actually collect the money.”

Gov. Reynolds' proclamation issued Friday allows farmers markets to open, but they can only have vendors that sell farm and food products. The order prohibits entertainment and seating. Vendors must be spaced at least 6 feet apart and increase their public health and hygiene practices. 

We want you to stop in, we want you to shop, and go home. -Roger Caudron, Sioux City Farmers Market board.

Caudron said there will be at least 10 to 20 vendors to kick off the season on May 6. The farmers market would have around 55 vendors in a typical summer, so having fewer vendors will allow them to spread out more easily, he said. Vendors will be spaced 14 feet apart.

One of the vendors participating in the farmers market is Heartland Coffee & Nosh. The food truck sells a variety of breakfast and lunch bowls, coffee, lavender lemonade and cinnamon waffle bites. Owner Stacy Orndorff said the farmers market accounts for one-third of her business’ annual total revenue, so she didn’t want to miss out this year.

“It’s a big chunk for us,” Orndorff said.

Heartland Coffee & Nosh will no longer hand customers a buzzer that it normally uses at the market, that indicates when their food is ready. Instead, they’ll announce orders by microphone, or by a digital display that they’re hoping to have up and running. Employees will sanitize their hands each time they take cash. They’ll wipe down their payment device every time a customer uses a debit or credit card. Orndorff said they’ll make sure customers keep a distance from each other.

“We’re going to put dots out with numbers on them that are 6 feet apart so customers can line up on the dots,” Orndorff said.

Orndorff said employees will hand out food in a tent behind their truck instead of through their truck's window, so customers can space themselves out more. And inside the truck, where there are around eight people working, Orndorff said they’re taking additional precautions, which they've already been doing while serving food at places other than the farmers market. Everybody frequently checks in on each other and sees how they’re feeling, she said.

“We all have our stations that we stay in, that’s how we are able to move that many people in there,” Orndorff said. “But I think it’s just being conscious of each other and trying to stay away …and just encouraging each other ‘hey, you need to wash your hands, hey you need to change your gloves’.”

The Des Moines Farmers Market hasn’t set an opening date yet. The Iowa City Farmers Market has delayed its opening until at least July 4. Caudron said the Sioux City Farmers Market is confident in opening on schedule because all of the food is grown by local producers and vendors, and he trusts those products. 

Credit Courtesy of Sioux City Farmers Market Facebook page
Under Gov. Kim Reynolds' order, farmers markets will only have food and farm vendors.

“When you figure how many have touched a product grown locally versus a product in a grocery store, we believe this is actually ultimately going to be a safer form of getting food products into the hands of the patron than a typical grocery store might be,” Caudron said.

The Sioux City Farmers Market will open next week, despite the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Woodbury County, which is up to 703 total cases as of Tuesday morning. Caudron said at this time, there are no plans to limit the number of people who can be on the grounds of the farmers market at a time, but “we’ll be monitoring things,” he said.

A typical Saturday at the Sioux City Farmers Market would see around 2,000 people.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.