BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT) has hosted one of the busiest, best-loved farmers’ markets in the state for over two decades at their picturesque Crystal Spring Farm (CSF). This year, however, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BTLT will start the season hosting the Saturday market at the Brunswick High School.
“We know how important this market is for getting food to our community and for our farmers’ and producers’ livelihoods,” said BTLT Director of Programs Nikkilee (Lee) Cataldo. “There was never a question of if we would open the market this season. Just a question of how we could do it safely.”
Deemed “essential businesses,” farmers’ markets across the state are scrambling to figure out how to get local food to consumers, while keeping both vendors and customers safe. The state of Maine and Maine Federation of Farmers Markets have provided valuable guidance, but every market is unique and poses its own challenges in the era of COVID-19. Something BTLT knew they needed for their market was more space to allow for adequate distancing between vendors and customers.
The extensive parking lots at Brunswick High School allow for vendors and customers to spread out more than the typically crowded Crystal Spring Farm market site. “People have been asking for years why we don’t spread our market out in the expansive fields at CSF, and I’m sure they will ask this year too,” Cataldo commented. “But everyone forgets – the thing that makes the farm so wonderful for hosting the market is also what keeps us on the market green – active agriculture. Those fields were conserved to be farmed, not to be more parking,”
It is not just the location that will be different. BTLT is implementing a host of other precautions that they want the community to be aware of, including:
- From 8:30-9 a.m. the market will only be open for shopping by high-risk populations including seniors, the immunocompromised, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and caregivers;
- There will be no outhouse available to customers; and
- The number of customers permitted in the market at any time will be limited, so attendees should be prepared to wait and/or come at mid- to late-morning, times that tend to be less busy.
In addition, BTLT is asking all customers to follow all CDC guidelines, stay home if you feel ill or have been around someone who is sick, wear a mask at all times, bring hand sanitizer, stay at least six feet away from others, send only one person per family to shop, and keep your visit as brief as possible to assure everyone has an opportunity to shop. EBT/SNAP and Harvest Bucks will still be available at the market.
Vendors are also adapting to the move with adjustments to booth layout, how they handle payment, and spacing guidelines. All have been asked to provide pre-order options (learn more about each vendor’s availability at btlt.org/farmers-market) and grab-and-go to keep customers moving efficiently through the market. “I am heartened by the response of our vendors who are ready to step up to the plate despite the significant adjustments to our regular market procedures,” said Market Manager, Jacqui Koopman. “A few of our vendors will begin a few weeks later in the season, but most will be with us on opening day.”
BTLT expressed its gratitude to the town of Brunswick and the Brunswick School Department for the use of the BHS grounds, and for figuring everything out so quickly. “Having the roads, parking lots, and space of the high school is going to make a huge difference in being able to have a safe but robust market for our community. We couldn’t have done it without their support,” said Cataldo.
She also noted how different it will be not to start the season with the “celebratory” feeling of community coming together at CSF. “We are all looking forward to being back at Crystal Spring Farm, but for now, we’re just glad to be able to continue to support our local food economy and help assure access to fresh, healthy food for our community. And at least market shoppers will be able to look out across the blueberry fields to Crystal Spring Farm property!”
BTLT’s Farmers’ Market opens this Saturday, May 2, at Brunswick High School, 116 Maquoit Road in Brunswick, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (with shopping from 8:30-9 a.m. limited to vulnerable populations). For more information visit btlt.org/farmers-market.