VA Farmers' Markets Should be ‘Essential’ during COVID-19
Farmers’ markets are a critical component of Virginia’s food system and economy as they provide affordable, fresh, and nutritious food directly to consumers, and keep much needed capital within their local communities. Moreover, farmers’ markets also play an instrumental role in communities’ food security systems, as surplus stocks are donated to area food banks, and some are intentionally located to serve neighborhoods with limited public transportation infrastructure, and those who rely on WIC, SNAP, and Senior Citizen benefits.
State and local governments across the United States designated farmers’ markets with the same importance as grocery stores, retail, shelter, and medical support centers. Maryland and the District of Columbia deemed farmers’ markets as essential businesses to remain open in support of their communities’ needs.
Several farmers and vendors participate in farmers’ markets in neighboring states. The fact that our region is not coordinated in its classification of farmers’ markets is creating a major challenge for markets, farmers, vendors, and most importantly, our residents who rely on farmers’ markets to provide healthy, locally-grown food. Virginia is the outlier and should support farmers’ markets and its local farming community during this challenging time. For many Virginia vendors, farmers’ markets are their only source of revenue. These restrictions will only exacerbate vendors’ razor thin margins. Unnecessary restrictions should not further contribute to small businesses’ undoing in these unprecedented times.
Fair Farms supports farmers’ market operators’ commitment to safety and health protocols, for example: social distancing, limiting congregation around vendor stalls, pre-bagging produce, and encouraging online orders for expedited pick-up that are in line with Governor Ralph Northam’s recent stay-at-home-order. As some of these changes can be costly, farmers’ markets, farmers and vendors should receive financial support for implementing operational changes to meet the new health and safety guidelines.
Please join us in calling on Governor Northam to strengthen our regional food system in a time when it’s needed most and declare Virginia farmers’ markets as essential businesses.