Downtown Yakima Farmers Market opens this weekend with new COVID-19 precautions

Downtown Yakima Farmers Market
Courtesy: Downtown Yakima Farmers Market

YAKIMA, Wash. — The Downtown Yakima Farmers Market is scheduled to open for the season Sunday, amid a lengthy list of new changes geared toward preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of things that are going to be different this season,” manager Yvette Lippert said. “It’s a lot of changes, but we’re not alone; every market is having to go through this.”

Farmers markets have been deemed essential by Gov. Jay Inslee and as such, are allowed to operate under certain guidelines, including having only those vendors that provide food and other essential items.

“We will not have our general seating area or tents set up for people to eat at the market,” Lippert said. “Right now, we’re not allowed to eat on the premises.”

Although crafts, arts and entertainment are off the table for now, Lippert said the market is expected to have about 16 to 20 vendors on opening day.

“Unlike other markets or grocery stores, [the market] features vegetables, fruit, flowers, cheese and other products direct from the producer,” Lippert said. “This means what you get is direct from fields to the market — no extra stops and minimal handling.”

Lippert has been working to develop protocols since the end of March, with the assistance of the Yakima Health District, the City of Yakima and the Washington State Farmers Market Association.

Dyfm2Food benefits

Like grocery stores, farmers markets accept payment through state and federal food programs such as SNAP/EBT, which they utilize with its partner program SNAP Market Match.

SNAP Market Match allows people to double their food benefits when going to farmers markets, matching the contributions dollar for dollar: if someone withdraws $10 from their EBT card, they receive $20 in market tokens.

People can go to the information booth inside the market, swipe their EBT card, choose how much they want to spend and then receive double that amount to spend on produce, dairy products and baked goods — excluding hot to-go food available at the market.

“It’s a great way to extend what you’re getting from the state for financial help but it also helps with healthier eating habits,” Lippert said.

Layout changes, social distancinDyfm8g

The market takes place each year on South Third Street between East Yakima Avenue and East Chestnut Avenue; this year, the area will be cordoned off with caution tape, with a limited number of customers allowed inside.

Each vendor is allowed to have three people at their booth at a time, so the capacity will change depending on the number of vendors present.

With 16 to 20 vendors anticipated for Sunday, Lippert said the limit could be anywhere from 48 to 60 customers at a time.

“We’re recommending just sending one person per family to the farmers market to allow more people to be able to come in and shop,” Lippert said.

If the limit is met, patrons will be placed on a waitlist to enter and asked to wait behind chalk lines placed at six-foot intervals leading up to the market

Lippert recommend making a list of needed items so customers can move through the market quickly and efficiently.

Booths will be placed about 10 feet apart and customers will be allowed to enter through a single entrance on Yakima Avenue, follow one-way traffic through the market and then leave through a single exit on Chestnut Avenue.

Hand sanitation stations will be available throughout the market for public use and market staff or volunteers will be regularly sanitizing “high touch” areas.

Everyone at the market is asked to follow social distancing guidelines, with staff and volunteers monitoring the crowds and reminding customers to stay six feet apart from one another.

If any customer, vendor, volunteer or staff member receives two verbal warnings regarding social distancing or refuses to comply with any requirements, they will be asked to immediately leave the market.

Dyfm4Requirements for vendors, staff and volunteers

Prior to the market, staff and volunteers are asked to take their own temperature and self-monitor for symptoms, staying home if they feel unwell. Additionally, anyone exhibiting symptoms of the virus, including staff, volunteers, vendors and customers, will be asked to leave the market.

“If you are sick, please stay home,” Lippert said.

Staff and volunteers will screen vendors as they come into the market to set up. Once inside, vendors are required to wear gloves and change them regularly, along with washing their hands frequently at their own hand washing station at their booth.

“We are not requiring face masks, but we are highly recommending them,” Lippert said.

The market is recommending each booth have at least two people working: one to handle the product and another to handle money. Vendors capable of processing credit cards are asked to bring cleaning supplies to regularly disinfect the card-reading device.

Vendors capable of accepting pre-orders will be posted on the Downtown Yakima Farmers Market website, where customers will be able to place orders ahead of time to pick up at the Sunday market.

A full list of vendor protocols can be found here.

Here’s what customers need to know before they go:

  • The market opens at 9 a.m. for seniors — those 65 and older — and then opens for the general public at 10 a.m., closing at 1 p.m.
  • Customers are not allowed to touch products. Instead, the marked recommends they ask the vendors to select and bag the products for them. If a customer has a reusable bag, the vendor will place items on the table for the customer to bag themselves.
  • No sampling or eating is allowed at the market. While hot food vendors will be present, they are available for takeout only.
  • Face masks are not required at this time, but the market is highly recommending that customers wear them.
  • Public restrooms are for vendors, staff and volunteers only and are not available for customers.
  • Dogs are not allowed at the market unless they are service animals.

A full list of answers to customers’ frequently asked questions about the new guidelines for the market can be found here.