Local Food Finds Its Customers

Despite Pandemic Problems:

Local Food Finds Its Customers

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Beth Redd, a volunteer with the Cooperstown Farmers Market, helps a customer with their purchase.

The worst pandemic in a century has impacted the daily lives of everybody including farmers markets, which are a staple of the community in Otsego County.

However, some farmers markets, such as the Cooperstown Farmers Market and Richfield Spring Farmers Market, have turned that misfortune into an advantage by implementing new ways of doing business, market officials said.

With increased interest in customers buying local, farmers markets and their vendors have put in place safety regulations and have adapted to the new reality of social distancing by abiding to USDA regulations during the age of COVID.

In order to limit exposure, the Cooperstown Farmers Market, which is operated by Otsego 2000, has established a curbside pickup where customers can order food on their website between 5 p.m. Mondays and 2 p.m. Wednesdays and pick up the order on Saturdays.

Product offerings will be updated every Monday on the website.

In addition to requiring masks, they have limited the amount of shoppers on the inside, require all customers to sanitize their hands before entering and ask customers to follow a clockwise pattern in order to maintain social distancing.

Pick-up orders await their customers.

Ellen Pope, executive director of Otsego 2000, said that in some ways, the pandemic has been beneficial to their business.

“We did see a strong uptick on interest in buying local,” Pope said Monday, May 3, calling the changes a “silver lining.”

“The pandemic did make people realize the importance of spending money locally,” Pope said.

“It depends entirely on which farmers market you talk to,” Ron Bayzon, Richfield Springs Farmer’s Market manager said Monday. He also emphasized the desire for customers to buy locally.

“There’s a segment of the customer pool that really wants to buy local,” Bayzon said. “They’ll ask where it’s grown . . . there has been a movement in that direction.

Bayzon said the pandemic has mostly impacted how the open air farmers market and the vendors operate. This includes spreading vendors at least 10 feet apart, closing public restrooms, not giving out free samples, making available county provided sanitizer and not having any live music entertainment.

“Some of our vendors have found many of their customers have gone directly to their farms and order ahead of time,” Bayzon said.

He said several vendors had an uptick of sales during the pandemic.

Richfield Springs Farmers Market does most of their business during the summer, and typically sees an increase in revenue during that time, he said.

He said that a bigger problem to their bottom line is pop up vendors selling fruits and vegetables on the side of the road.

Getting customers to abide by the COVID regulations can be an issue, too, he said.

“You always have customers that think the pandemic is a hoax,” Bayzon said.

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