Local farmers markets have changed how they do business as the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to disrupt daily life.
Because of the limitations of an ongoing pandemic, the seasonal Scarsdale market, which operated on Boniface Circle for the past two years, will shift to an online format this season, but several other markets will offer in-person, open-air shopping with safety as the first priority.
The Scarsdale farmers market has no plans to open for the summer or fall of 2020, according to manager Corinna Makris. She said Village Green Markets, which manages farmers markets in Scarsdale and Peekskill, will shift all of its services online. Through the website, villagegreenmarkets.com, loyal Scarsdale customers will be able to order products next week for delivery starting July 10 throughout the growing season.
According to Makris, farmers markets — online and traditional alike — are a superior way to shop, and provide customers with a wide variety of fresh food to cook healthful, tasty meals.
“The pandemic has affected local food distribution nationwide,” Makris said. “Many communities saw supermarket shelves lacking vegetables, particularly greens, and even national food chains removed burgers from some locations because of product shortages.”
Communities with farmers markets kept the flow of food coming to small towns throughout the health crisis and independently of national food distribution, she said, and that’s “yet another reason to shop local and support local farms.”
While the prospect of an online farmers market might be disappointing for aficionados who crave the sights and smells of fresh produce while strolling through rows of vendors, the virtual market is a safe way to procure local, fresh goods.
Yet, several local markets have adapted so they can safely continue to offer an in-person experience amid the pandemic. But the transition has not been seamless.
Strict guidance from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state Department of Agriculture and New York Federation of Markets has made the farmers market experience different from prior seasons. An 11-point list of mandates has been distributed to market managers, who are tasked with requiring vendors and customers to wear masks, provide hand-washing stations and devise a market layout to limit contact between customers, employees and products.
The local markets implementing the new safety restrictions include those in Hartsdale and Tuckahoe, operating at the nearby Metro-North train stations on Saturdays and on Sundays respectively.
To ensure the safety of both customers and employees, Joe Chiocchi, owner of Westchester Greenhouses and Farm, a farm stand which supplies produce to those markets, has armed his employees with masks, gloves and sanitation stations and provides the same for customers to protect everyone involved in the shopping experience. Around the perimeter of his large tent, signs create a barrier between patrons and produce, with safety in mind. The abrupt and unprecedented changes, now required, have been an experience of “trial and error” for Chiocchi.
“Our top priority is the safety of our customers and employees,” he said. “The farmers markets can be a great way for people to have a normal experience and get great produce in a really safe way, and we’re doing all we can to guarantee that safety.”
At both locations, Chiocchi requires shoppers to wear face masks and gloves, offers sanitizer, and he revised his usual floor plan to make sure patrons are properly distancing, 6 feet apart.
“I am happy to see them taking all of this so seriously,” said Linda Murphy, 77, masked and intently eyeing kale and Swiss chard at the Hartsdale market. “This is my first time out of the house since February. It feels good to get back to my normal routine without putting my health at risk.”
“I really don’t mind wearing gloves and a mask,” said Cynthia Miller, 67. Searching through boxes of strawberries to find the ripest batch, she added, “The open air of the market seems a lot safer than a grocery store and there’s more room to socially distance.”
Some shoppers have not been as cooperative.
“Get out of my way,” said one customer at the Hartsdale market when a vendor asked her to wear a face covering and gloves. (She eventually complied after multiple requests.)
Some expressed doubts as to how threatening COVID-19 really is and how necessary protective measures are.
“This is ridiculous,” Mark Russo, 47, said while shopping for red and green cabbage to make coleslaw last weekend. “Isn’t this whole virus thing over?”
Another customer questioned the relevance and efficacy of the mandatory use of market-provided gloves at the Tuckahoe location.
“The virus doesn’t actually transfer through contact on shared surfaces,” said Peter Ivanov, 42, while reading a sign listing regulations at the site. “These gloves are really useless.”
The only certainty in the COVID-fueled chaos is that change is inevitable — and farmers markets are no exception.
Meet me at the market
Hartsdale Farmers Market, on East Hartsdale Avenue, at the Metro-North station. Open Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Protective face masks and social distancing are required. Vendors include Westchester Greenhouses and Farm, Scotty’s Country Kitchen and Dr. Pickle.
The Dobbs Ferry Farmers Market, municipal parking lot at 99 Cedar St.,dobbsferryfarmersmarket.com. The market is open Fridays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., through Nov. 20. For updates, follow the market on facebook.com/DobbsFerryFarmersMarket.
Hastings Farmers Market, in the commuter lot on Southside Avenue, across from the Metro-North train tracks. hastingsfarmersmarket.org. Open Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The first hour is reserved for senior citizens and the immune compromised. Sign up online for timed entry to shop, and pick up preorders, from vendors. Express Table pickup is for prepaid preorders from up to five vendors (no market entry). A standby line starts at noon, no registration needed. The sign-up link and vendors’ preorder lists are posted at 6 p.m. Wednesdays at hastingsfarmersmarket.org and on social media. For updates, follow the market on Facebook or sign up for the newsletter.
White Plains Farmers Market, on Court Street between Main Street and Martine Avenue. Open Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Protective face masks and social distancing are required. Vendors include Rolling Ridge Farm, Meredith Bread, Kariba Farm, Westchester Greenhouses and Farm, Irvington Delight, Dr. Pickle, Lamar’s Pastry, Mozzerella4U, Gaucho Burger and KAS Spirits.
Tuckahoe Farmers Market, at Depot Square at Metro-North Station. Open Sundays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Protective face masks and social distancing are required. Vendors include Westchester Greenhouses and Farm, Bambino Ravioli Pastificio and fresh bread.
Pleasantville Farmers Market, on Memorial Plaza. Open Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This market offers a rotational cast of vendors, as well as some regulars. Information is widely available on the Pleasantville Farmers Market Facebook page and all patrons are held to COVID-19 related safety guidelines.
Bronxville Farmers Market, on Paxton Ave at Stone Place. Open Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Patrons must sign up for a shopping slot via Facebook where an Eventbrite link will be posted every Tuesday at 6 p.m. Shoppers need to wear masks and will not be allowed to directly handle produce. A large range of vendors sell products from organic produce to artisanal bread to fresh fish.
Rye’s Down to Earth Market, at the parking lot off Theodore Fremd Avenue, behind the Purchase Street stores. Open Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Face masks are required. Shoppers are encouraged to use the “WhatsGood Marketplace” app to order directly from vendors, between Monday and Thursday evening, and pick up prepackaged orders on Sunday. For updates follow Down to Earth Markets (Rye, NY) on Facebook.
Irvington Farmers Market, on the grounds of Main Street School, 101 Main St. Open Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; the first hour is reserved for the elderly and immunocompromised. A limited number of shoppers will be able to walk into the market, with safety precautions, and a table will be set up outside the market to pick up prepaid orders from up to five vendors. Visit irvmkt.org or the market’s Facebook page.
Larchmont Farmers Market, at the upper parking lot of the Metro-North station. Open Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Patrons can preorder food on the WhatsGood Marketplace app from a long list of vendors. Face masks and social distancing are required at the market. More information can be found at https://downtoearthmarkets.com.
New Rochelle Farmers Market, on the property of the Thomas Paine Cottage Museum at Broadview and Sicard. Held on Fridays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the requirements of social distancing and protective face masks. Customers are encouraged to preorder by 1 p.m. every Thursday on the WhatsGood Marketplace app. Vendors include Pickle Licious, Cano Coffee Co., Anthi’s Greek Specialties, Eggcellent Quiche, Liberty Farms and Dagele Brothers Produce. More information is available at the Down to Earth Markets (New Rochelle) Facebook page.
TaSH Farmers Market, in the Green Street South lot of the Tarrytown Metro-North station, near Losee Field and the Tarrytown Marina. tashfarmersmarket.org. Open Saturdays, 8:30-10:30 a.m. for drive-through and 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for walk-through. All shoppers must sign up for a time slot at tashfarmersmarket.org.
Muscoot Farm Market, Route 51 NY-100, Katonah. muscootfarm.org. The market operates, with precautions, on Sundays, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., through Nov. 22. Register in advance at westchestercountyparks.eventbrite.com. Walk-ins are limited to one person per family and must wear a mask.
Farm Market at John Jay Homestead Historic Site, 400 Jay St., Katonah. johnjayhomestead. Open Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., through October. Registration required online for a 30-minute shopping time slot. The link to sign up is posted on the website on Monday mornings.
Hilltop Farm Stand, Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center,1271 Hanover St., Yorktown Heights. hilltophanoverfarm.org. Hilltop-grown produce and other items are available for advance ordering through the online catalog from Tuesday at 4 p.m. until Thursday at 4 p.m. All online orders will be fulfilled through curbside pickup on Friday or Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m. The farm stand is open Fridays, 1-6 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with modifications for safety.
Gossett Brothers Nursery, 1202 Route 35, South Salem. gossettbrothers.com. Vendors offer farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, meat, butter, baked goods, local honey and prepared food on Saturdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., outdoors rain or shine. For more information, call 914-763-3001.