This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Fayette County Farmers Market season.
David Persinger has been the market manager since 2010 and has been a vendor since 2017.
According to Persinger and the market’s website, the very first local market appeared in 2001 after having been organized by Carol Sowers who, at the time, was a part of the local OSU Extension Office, and Sowers was assisted by Brad Bergefurd who, at that time, was part of the Piketon OSU Extension Office.
The first few markets were held in the parking lot of the local extension office.
“In the ensuing years, others from the local Extension Office organized the yearly market including but not limited to Christie Wilt, Tyler Brown, Linda Morgan, Kim Stover and the Master Gardeners of Fayette County,” explains the market’s website.
In 2007, the market then moved to its current location in the city parking lot in Washington C.H. Then, in 2010, participating vendors formed a cooperative association to operate the market.
According to Persinger, at the first market of the 2020 season on Saturday, May 9, they did well in sales and about 70 percent of the patrons wore masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought it was fabulous,” said Persinger. “The cold weather was more of a stressor than the COVID-19 protocol, and that’s just because we were so cold.”
Information shared with the Record-Herald from Katrina Bush, one of the market vendors, details the conditions the market must operate under this season in order to comply with Ohio Public Health orders in relation to COVID-19.
The required practices that must be followed include adhering to social distancing by keeping people at least six feet apart, having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products available so they can be used readily and often, having daily health checks for vendors and volunteers with a requirement to stay home if symptomatic, and requiring face coverings be used by employees, vendors and volunteers.
Bush explained that typically, there would be one vendor per parking space in the parking lot however, this year the vendors are situated in every other space. While patrons visiting the market are encouraged to wear masks, they are not required.
Other additional practices being adopted by the market includes ensuring that aisles are at least 12 feet wide, the use of chalk to indicate six-foot distance to assist customers with social distancing, keeping patrons moving one-way through the market, limiting food being sold to whole, uncut produce and packaged items, not using table cloths or other materials that are not easily cleanable (such as baskets), not allowing sampling of food, encouraging the use of new plastic bags only, and discouraging patrons from touching products to instead allow vendors (who are encouraged to wear gloves) be the ones to bag selected items.
Social activities that have occurred at past markets, such as music, children’s activities, etc., are to be canceled, and patrons are encouraged to only have one person per household visit the market to help with keeping crowds down.
Bush explained, “I believe we had about 11 vendors selling plants, face masks, handmade foods including jellies, salsas, salad dressings, pies, local honey, and pottery. It is early in the season, so the produce was limited to radishes, rhubarb and green onions. We expect other vendors to join as produce becomes available and as they become comfortable with market and state safety requirements, including wearing facemasks, frequent sanitizing and maintaining safe distancing.”
Some of the regular vendors have decided not to be at the market this year due to the pandemic.
“We’re a cooperative of vendors,” said Bush. “David Persinger is our market manager, and then we have a president, vice president, secretary and members at-large. We’ve been meeting every few weeks by conference call to discuss getting ready for the market.”
Some of these meetings, according to Bush, were for the board while the vendors also held meetings to discuss how to be safe during this time. They had another meeting after the first market to discuss how things went and what could be altered later on.
“We know we’re just going to have to take it week-by-week, because we weren’t terribly busy the first week,” said Bush. “We’ll get there at some point and have to see what happens when it gets more crowded.”
Something new for the market this year, according to Persinger, is each vendor is required to have insurance which was a decision made following a discussion the board had with their insurance carrier last year.
“We’ve joined the major markets in Ohio where our vendors have commercial liability insurance also,” said Persinger. “We’re not a flea market — we’re a bona fide, structured organization.”
The market will be on Saturdays from May 9 through Sept. 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the city parking lot located at 101 E. East St. in Washington C.H. There will also be Wednesday markets June 17 through Sept. 16 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Tractor Supply Company parking lot, 1650 Columbus Ave. in Washington C.H.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.