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U District and Ballard Farmers Markets Will Be Open This Weekend

Eight weeks ago, King County had the first confirmed case of COVID-19 virus. Since then, we have taken extraordinary and unprecedented measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Preliminary data shows that our efforts are flattening the curve, saving lives, and protecting our hospital systems and health care workers.

But with continued cases in our community, Seattle and our region are facing a new normal of physical distancing and new public health requirements at our parks and businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19. We know these measures are hard on our community and have real economic consequences for the most vulnerable and low-income workers.

We also know that these physical distancing efforts have impacted treasured community resources, including our farmers markets. For the last several weeks, the City of Seattle has been working to reopen Seattle’s farmers markets in a way that meets Public Health – Seattle & King County physical distancing requirements and prevents the further community spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The City of Seattle permits and is the enforcement agency for many of our events, businesses, and public spaces. As we reopen, it must be done safely to continue to slow and limit the spread of the virus in our community. In partnership with Public Health – Seattle & King County and the farmers markets, we have developed a series of strategies to ensure our farmers markets can reopen while maintaining physical distancing measures that are critical to the health of our community. We believe Seattle and King County can help lead the way in reopening with smart public health guidance and new measures at the places we know and love that also protect workers and residents.

The City and farmers markets deployed three key strategies to ensure physical distancing at farmers markets:

  1. Quick Transactions: Farmers markets are normally a community hub and gathering place. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic customers and vendors must keep transactions short, both to avoid prolonged contact between individuals and ensure more shoppers can pass through the market.
  2. Pre-Package Pick Up: Many vendors allowed customers to place their orders beforehand, meaning that customers could arrive, quickly get their produce, and leave. This prevented longer wait times and gathering.
  3. Customer-Vendor Limits: Each vendor can only serve two customers at a time. We found that anything beyond that limit caused too much gathering and jeopardized physical distancing requirements.

This past weekend, we granted U District and Ballard farmers markets one-time permits to operate. We saw vendors and customers alike largely following physical distancing guidelines and innovation from vendors including drive-throughs, pre-packing, and quick transactions. There were a few changes that needed to be made on-site to accomplish physical distancing requirements, but with the markets associations’ partnership, these changes were quickly implemented. The farmers markets continue to be a collaborative and responsive partner, and we look forward to our ongoing work together in these unprecedented circumstances.

Last weekend’s trial opening of the Ballard and U District farmers markets helped set a new standard of how farmers markets can operate moving forward. Because of the success of last weekend’s opening, the City will reissue permits for the Ballard and U District farmers markets again this weekend. As the Mayor has said, this is marathon – not a sprint – but we need help lead the way on recommendations and guidelines for both businesses and residents to allow them to operate in a new normal in the weeks and months to come.

Customer compliance is critical to ensuring the continued operation of our famers markets. If you plan on shopping at a farmers market this weekend, please make sure to follow mandatory physical distancing measures. Before you shop, please review this list of customer responsibilities and expectations. Farmers markets are such beloved community hubs and they provide affordable, healthy food for residents across our City. We’re so grateful for the serve they provide our residents, and we appreciate that residents are adjusting quickly to new public health guidance and expectations.