LOGAN –The U.S. Department of Agriculture has deemed this week, August 2-8, National Farmers Market Week and the National Farmers Coalition is pushing for special events and activities to bring crowds to the markets. With COVID, the markets are under strict guidelines to stop the spread of the pandemic and have been asked by local and state officials to limit their activities.
The Bear River Health Department and Utah Department of Agriculture and Food asked farmers markets in the state not to bring in music and hot food vendors and have given them strict methods for operating with the pandemic.
The USDA said in 2015 farmers markets pumped $9 billion into the economy. And despite being horse collared by restrictions and a cancelled Summer Citizens program, people running produce stands at Cache County Gardners’ Market (CCGM) are counting this year as a success.
CCGM is located behind the Cache County Administrative building at 200 North and Main Street. Organizers got permission from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) to hold this year’s market.
Maryann Hubbell, secretary for The Sustainable Agriculture Association of the Bear River Area, the 501-C that organizes the annual event said they were pleasantly surprised at the number of visitors every Saturday.
“We are doing well this year. We have 1,000 to 1,100 people each Saturday,” she said. “Not as many as we’ve had in the past and we don’t have the music and vendors, there is a lot of different kinds of produce for the different booths.””
Since they started up in May, masks have been mandatory and they can’t have over 1,000 people in the market at a time.
“We can’t control people if they don’t want to wear a mask, but most do,” she said. “We ask them to maintain six-foot distance.”
Hubbell said they are selling a lot of different types of produce and people have to go in an entrance, through the market in one direction and exit in a designated area.
“People have tendency to buy from the people closest to the entrances so we trade off the vendors at the entrance so all of the vendors have chance to be the first one people see,” Hubbell said.
Some of the commercial vendors aren’t having the same success as the growers.
Barney Northrup, executive chef for Crumb Brothers, said they try to support the Logan market.
“We try and support the local market and we do the Salt Lake City one, too,” he said. “Most of our markets are break even.”
This year they have double the expenses because they are required to have two people at the markets.
“For all markets, we have to have one person handle the food and another one handle the money,” Northrup said. ”That doubles our labor costs.”
This year is more difficult with the summer citizens not here. He said they are a large customer base and one of the anchors for the market.
Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner Logan Wilde said farmers markets are an essential part of the state’s food supply. Federal food assistance programs utilize farmers markets and for some farmers they’re the sole source of income.