WESTFIELD-As a “new normal” for all of us will become more apparent in the coming months, organizers for the Westfield Farmers’ Market will also have to make several major adjustments.
“Under strict regulation, the market will be a source of food only, and will not allow non-essential items to be sold,” said Deborah Randzio, market manager. “The market will not be a social gathering space, but will be strictly a place for people to access the supply of food provided by our vendors.”
Randzio said her team of volunteers are proceeding under the assumption that the market will open May 28, however, they concede that may be a “little ambitious” given the current circumstances of COVID-19.
Randzio said she has been attending webinars hosted by Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), based in South Deerfield, on how adjustments can be made to operate safely.
“We’re on a wait and see plan to know what kind of precautions or adjustments we’ll have to make when we do open to make sure that volunteers, vendors, and customers are all safe,” said Randzio.
Randzio noted that many of the recommendations involve purchasing supplies which are in short supply, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes or liquid soap.
The most important commodity is the need for volunteers – especially in light of how the pandemic has changed the way we live our lives and run our businesses and organizations.
“One concern is that most of our volunteers are over 60 and in the high risk age range,” said Randzio. “At least one volunteer has indicated she will not be volunteering this year because of the virus. So we’re trying to put out a call for more volunteers.”
Randzio stressed “the market will not open” unless she has enough volunteers to help with the tasks required to address new recommendations because of the pandemic that ensures the safety of volunteers, vendors and customers.
“Some markets have been open throughout all of this and have ideas about things we can do,” said Randzio. “CISA has been very supportive in trying to help us meet the goals of supporting local agriculture and provide access to food, especially for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers.”
One idea that the management team has been considering “for a long time” is an online order, curbside pick up system, however, a volunteer is sought to “tackle” that project.
“It will be a project in and of itself, but I’m hoping maybe we will be able to put it in place if and when we need it,” said Randzio.
Committee members meet weekly on Zoom to continue discussing logistics and include Peter Langmore, assistant market manager, Maria Parent, treasurer, and Rachel Burke, Bern Toomey, Lisa Zlody, Donna Tatlock Calkins, Margo Halton, Mary Kadamoto, Becky and Evan Kreke, Bill Stroud, Joy Bunnell, and Judy Harvester.
Randzio also noted that vendor applications are coming in a few at a time and she still has openings.
“We have several vendors who have retired or moved, and quite a few new ones that seem pretty exciting,” said Randzio. “We’re up to 10 farms, five of which are new, so that’s exciting too.”
Randzio noted the “bottom line” at this time is the Episcopal Church of the Atonement is closed, under the direction of Bishop Douglas Fisher of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.
“We can’t open the market without access to the church because all of our equipment including SNAP coins and processing equipment is stored inside the building, not to mention access to water and restrooms,” said Randzio.
Also, the Westfield Health Department makes the final determination whether the market can open and under what conditions, according to Randzio.
“If the conditions are so restrictive that our volunteers and budget are unable to make the accommodations, or if we are unable to get the necessary sanitizing supplies, toilet paper, paper towels and wipes, then we might not be able to open,” said Randzio. “Our hope is that, if we cannot open on May 28, we will schedule a delayed opening at a later date.”
For more information on ways to get involved with the market, visit www.westfieldfarmersmarket.org.