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  • Writer's pictureWandro, Kanne, & Lalor, PC

Best Practices for Farmers' Market Vendors and Leaders

On Friday, April 24 2020, Governor Kim Reynolds announced that farmers' markets would be allowed to open in the coming weeks, with some conditions. In a proclamation that continues the state public health emergency declaration, farmers' markets are not included as mass gatherings; however, the proclamation states that only vendors that sell food or farm products will be allowed, and vendor booths will have to be at least six feet apart. Musicians will not perform, and activities and contests are prohibited. There will also be no seating areas.

If you are a farmers' market vendor, what can you do to keep yourself and your consumers safe during the COVID-19 outbreak? We have some tips we've compiled after researching best practices for farmers' markets.


Stay Informed

Farmers' market operators should consult their local health departments for up to date details in their community. Read the updates and recommendations available on their website and sign up for any alerts being offered by local or county-level officials. The CDC has issued interim guidance for large public gatherings with useful steps. Highlights include:

  • Establish relationships with key community partners and stakeholders such as local health departments and collaborate with them on broader planning efforts.

  • Promote the daily practice of everyday preventive actions. Use health messages and materials developed by credible public health sources such as your local public health department or CDC to encourage your event staff and participants to practice good personal health habits.

  • Provide prevention supplies at your events. Plan to have extra supplies on hand for event staff and participants, including sinks with soap, hand sanitizers, tissues.

  • Discourage people who are sick from attending.

  • Identify actions to take if you need to postpone or or cancel.

  • Some cities and states have declared states of emergency in response to COVID-19. While a state of emergency sounds concerning, it is primarily a procedural step that allows state and local health officials to access additional resources for identifying, treating, and preventing the spread of the disease.


Market Operations

Market leaders and stakeholders should discuss options like the ones below to mitigate exposure and outbreak risks. It might not be necessary for your market to take all of these steps immediately, but you should be determining at what point your market will begin to implement operational changes.

  • Consider limiting demos and samples to decrease opportunities for cross-contamination.

  • Suspend penalties for last-minute vendor cancellations.

  • Invite local health departments to attend market days for educational opportunities.

  • Follow simple CDC rules for washing hands and not touching faces. Add additional handwashing facilities for vendors and customers. Have signs posted as a reminder.

  • Make sanitary gloves required for market staff who handle money, tokens, or vouchers and remind staff about handwashing procedures.

  • CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. CDC is advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

  • If it seems right to stay open in your area, consider being proactive on social media, with signs at the market, etc. about what you are doing to keep your consumers safe.

  • Create an outline to show what 6-foot social distancing space is.

  • Redesign layout to increase social space: i.e., "no squares within square layout, even an "L" shape or a single row, rather than parallel rows.

  • Move the welcome booth to the front; add fences and ropes with signs that state you are allowing 50 or fewer people in at any one time.

  • For markets that are required to close, consider temporarily redesigning market locations to allow for pre-ordered items to be picked up at the usual market times or other alternative distribution methods.

  • Reiterate that if anyone shows any signs of illness, they should not attend the market.

  • Advise those attending the market in any capacity - customer, vendor, worker, volunteer - to wash their hands before arriving and upon returning home.

  • Rent portable hand-washing stations and ensure that all vendor booths at least have hand sanitizer.

  • Increase the frequency with which staff will disinfect surfaces/objects throughout the market.


Precautions for Vendors

  • Discontinue customer sampling unless samples are pre-packaged from a commercial kitchen.

  • Prevent customers from touching products they are not purchasing for themselves.

  • Round prices to the nearest dollar to avoid the needs for coins in making change.

  • Encourage credit-card transactions whenever possible.

  • Limit human contact with products by bagging them for customers.

  • Consider pre-packaged options for faster checkout times and crowd reductions.

  • Split duties for payment and bagging between two different people. (Alternately: Bag products first, then handle payment, and then wash or sanitize hands.)

  • Vendors should wear disposable gloves to avoid contamination and/or touching their faces.

  • Change disposable gloves whenever changing tasks. For example: Do not handle money and then handle products wearing the same gloves. Alternately: Assign one person to handle money and another person to handle products.


Social Distancing

At this time, social distancing is necessary to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. This may not be an issue for smaller markets, but larger markets will need to plan ahead and communicate changes with customers.

Market managers and boards should consider:

  • Promoting social distancing by enforcing a 6- to 10-foot space between vendor booths.

  • Discontinue events that encourage gathering, such as kids' corners or musical performances.

  • Eliminate, or cordon off, any seating and eating areas.

Additional logistics can encourage social distancing and prevent community spread.

  • Devote the first 30 minutes of market hours to elderly or immunocompromised customers.

  • Recommend that shoppers leave at least 6 feet between themselves at all times in the market.

  • Designate only one entrance and only one exit to the market.

  • Limit traffic to one customer per vendor booth at a time.

  • Implement time limits for customers at each vendor booth.

  • Encourage customers to prepare advance shopping lists to reduce shopping times.

  • Ask customers to remain in their cars if lines begin to form.

  • Request that customers leave after they have completed their purchases.



Maintaining regular, informative contact with customers and vendors is the best way to successfully implement any new procedures or policies.

  • Post signs asking customers to practice social distancing and not touch products they aren't purchasing.

  • Use social media and newsletters to promote vendors, their products, and updated policies.

  • Recommend that all market attendees follow CDC recommendations on minimizing the community spread of COVID-19.


Alternative Marketplaces

There is a significant chance that farmers' markets as they have been traditionally arranged could be postponed or potentially cancelled. Now is the time to consider alternatives for selling products.

One idea is a drive-through market - in which customers pick up orders from their vehicles, which limits both contact with others and their time at the market.

Here's an idea of how such a market could work:

  • Market master creates a menu tab on the farmers' market website.

  • Customers view products and place orders via Google Forms (or other online form).

  • Pickup times are designated for customers, who stay in their vehicles during pickup.

  • Volunteers pass out orders to customers while following all CDC handwashing guidelines.


Have questions? We have answers.

Call us at (515) 281-1475 or email us at


This Wandro & Associates Update is intended to inform firm clients and friends about legal developments, including recent decisions of various courts and administrative bodies. Nothing in this Practice Update should be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, and readers should not act upon the information contained in this Update without seeking the advice of legal counsel.

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