The New Canaan Farmers Market will open May 9 under a new “drive-thru” model that requires those seeking fresh local food to register in advance for pickup, officials say.
Launched around this time each spring, the popular Farmers Market will see shoppers purchasing produce and other items from a limited number of vendors in advance, and then scheduling their pickup times at the Center School Lot in preset intervals in order to avoid traffic congestion, according to New Canaan Director of Health Jennifer Eielson. No money will be exchanged at the market itself, she said.
“This is an indicator that we are planning ahead for a reopening plan, and as part of that, you have to do incremental baby steps,” Eielson told NewCanaanite.com. “Part of getting back to normal this time year is the Farmers Market. It is just a new vision of the Farmers Market, but that is the whole goal here, to get some kind of normalcy in an abnormal environment.”
As of Tuesday night, New Canaan had 152 positive cases of the COVID-19 virus and 21 residents had succumbed to coronavirus disease, according to the Officer of Emergency Management. Public parks and schools and non-essential businesses all have been forced to close by orders of the governor and first selectman, while restaurants have switched to delivery- and pickup-only models. Essential businesses such as Walter Stewart’s Market have instituted new protocols in order to protect the safety of workers and shoppers.
The same will hold for the Farmers Market as long as is necessary, Eielson said. Asked what criteria health and public safety officials will weigh as the prospect of introducing a walk-in element to the Farmers Market eventually emerges, Eielson said, “The driving force will be the number of cases and community transmission and what we are getting with general compliance in town.”
“If I see that it’s leveled off with no new spikes in New Canaan and people are compliant with restrictions in our parks and around town, then we may give them that chance, ‘OK you have graduated, now we will try this,’ ” Eielson said. “And if it doesn’t work, we’ll go back to the drive-thru. I feel that as long as it is done safely and not to a point where we’re reigniting the fire, we at some point will be able to give them the chance to show they can do it and do it safely.”
Market Master Alexis Gazy, of Oxford-based Gazy Brothers Farm, said she and others involved in the Saturday market “are looking forward to having a modified Farmers market this season.”
Gazy said organizers have been working hard “to come up with a viable option so we can maintain a local food supply” while keeping those involved safe and healthy.
Gazy said those seeking the most-up-to-date information on registering for the Farmers Market should sign up for the newsletter embedded on the homepage of the market’s website. The shopping options to be listed there will include vendors who will be participating in-person at the Farmers Market as well as others who are able to deliver to New Canaan but will be unable to attend in person in order to preserve safe social distancing in the Center School Lot. In years past the market has run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Gazy said she’s asking the town for permission to extend it by one hour, to 3 p.m., in order to accommodate more people in the new model where those picking up their food must be spaced apart.