Vendors have been feeling the financial squeeze ever since farmers markets were put on pause due to the dangers of COVID-19.
Some markets have resorted to a makeshift version of what we're used to, entertaining an online setup for orders while others have transformed into a new setup entirely offering up a scaled-down version to shoppers.
The North Park Thursday Market reopened to the public for the first time in months. Shoppers were forced to follow certain guidelines:
- maintaining social distancing
- purchase items and return home
- cover your face while present
- stay home if feeling ill
- shop by yourself
- no pets allowed
- do not touch any items of interest
- wash your hands regularly
- no consumption of food or beverage
Shoppers were elated to finally be back in the swing of shopping but realized the new limitations. Francesco Bonsi is a chef and a usual at markets.
“It’s weird that, you know, you cannot interact. Usually we like to hug each other but now you need to respect the rules, the guidelines from scientists,” Bonsi said. “Let’s hope in two to three months is better.”
He mentioned lines being the most troublesome for him, where he’s forced to endure long lines to get into the new modified markets.
Hami Ramani is also a regular at the North Park Thursday Market. He frequents with his wife and says despite the new changes, the new alternative isn’t a bad way to go.
“But I think this is a good start,” Ramani said. “I think this is the right thing to do. We can’t go back to having everyone gather all together. I think this is a good compromise, frankly.”
For vendors, it’s been a long, arduous wait. Ruth Murillo runs a business called Ruth’s No. 5 where she sells salsa. She says it’s been an uphill battle since the farmers markets closed.
“It went from being really profitable to having absolutely nothing," she said.
Murillo had to quickly transition to delivery mode and cater to her regular customers in a different way. She says it’s a business pivot that’s isn’t necessarily reaping financial gain but is helping maintain her customer base to help steer past this rough patch.
“We don’t make any profit really out of it right now and we’re okay with that,” Murillo said. “We just want to survive.”
Murillo is hopeful this chapter of the farmers markets will pass. She herself can’t help but long for the feel of the farmers markets the way they used to be, where she thrived off making sales and the experience shoppers got, whether they chose to buy or not.
“It’s not the same. They want to taste the spices, they want to taste the flavor," she explained.