Farmers markets retool to nurture communities

Photo courtesy Jasper Indiana Farmers' Market Facebook page


Farmers markets offer more than just a place for locals to buy and sell fresh produce. They also foster communities — tight-knit circles of growers, artisans and customers who thrive on the innate connectivity of their weekly gatherings.

“We’re a family for five months out of the year,” said Joe Huddleston, an organizer of the Jasper Farmers Market.

Two Dubois County marketplaces will look a little different this summer.

Guests will be distanced. Food sampling is prohibited and events like live entertainment and educational activities have been put on hold. Some vendors have opted to forgo returning and setting up their booths, while others are exploring drop-in options as opposed to seasonal setups.

But the intricate communities will largely persist. Coordinators of the annual markets in Jasper and Huntingburg are requesting buyers and sellers follow safety guidelines to keep their operations rolling.

Huddleston waited to make any decisions regarding the Jasper market until after Gov. Eric Holcomb rolled out his “Back on Track Indiana” plan earlier this month. Following conversations with the Dubois County Health Department, the weekly assembly began its 16th season on Saturday near the city’s train depot.

About 20 vendors showed up, and Huddleston recalled how a steady flow of visitors made it a “surprisingly good” showing. Not as booming as the best years, but for not knowing what to expect, he was pleased.

“There was a lot of respect going on this past weekend,” Huddleston said of the distancing that took place throughout the market, which is held from 8 a.m. to noon.

Other requests leadership has made include asking customers and vendors to frequently sanitize their hands and to wear face masks. Buyers are also asked to wait patiently in line for service and to only handle what they intend to purchase.

“As we move forward, if things have to get tighter, we’ll do it,” Huddleston later added. “If things get a little more loose, then that’ll happen, too.”

The Huntingburg Farmers Market will launch at the Market Street Park pavilion on Saturday, June 6. It will be open weekly from 7 to 11 a.m.

“We went with the thought that if we could have it, we would, of course,” said Sarah Flamion, that market’s organizer. “There are a lot of people who really enjoy and depend on the fresh produce and the things at our market.”

She further explained that many community members had reached out and inquired if the market would return in 2020, showing that a need does exist for its services. After getting the OK from the county health department, Flamion said organizers felt they had to bring the long-running gatherings back this summer.

Organizers have issued the same requests and restrictions as the Jasper Farmers Market.

“It’s going to be definitely different with the pandemic,” Flamion said. “We’re definitely going to have to monitor people. Ensure that everyone’s being protected, and everyone’s wearing their masks and everyone’s keeping their social distance.”

As long as people are mindful, the market will be great, she said.

According to a post on its Facebook page, the Ferdinand Farmers Market is on hold until further notice. The break is not related to COVID-19; the local market is pausing to search for new leadership to bring it back to the community.

“Some have expressed an interest in possibly having a single-day market later in the summer,” the Facebook post reads. “If anyone is interested in coordinating or participating in an event, please call or text 812-631-2856.”

The Jasper Farmers Market will meet each Saturday through Oct. 3. Huntingburg’s market will also run on Saturdays through that same date.

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