By Nathan Ham
The weather cooperated nicely for the start of the summer season for the Watauga County Farmers’ market. The crowds might not have been as big as years past, but there was still a steady volume of people looking for fresh plants and produce from area farms and greenhouses.
“I am impressed with how people are cooperating and following our directional signs. It looks like they’re just sending one or two family members so that’s helpful. It’s important that we try to keep everyone safe, obviously, we don’t want people to be sick. We need to continue to follow these rules and behave so we can remain open,” market manager Mary Goodnight said Saturday morning. “I’m missing the bans and all that fun stuff that makes it a social event but we’re doing what we have to do.”
Goodnight said that the total number of vendors was about half of what it usually is, mainly because the arts and crafts vendors are not considered essential and could not be there. Other vendors that chose not to be there were uncomfortable with the current COVID-19 situation.
Victor Romano, a market volunteer who is originally from New York, said that this was his second time volunteering at the market after previously helping out during the winter market.
“There are a lot more people coming out than at the winter market and social distancing is happening. We’re taking all the proper precautions and there are still a lot of people coming out to get fresh food,” Romano said.
The farmers’ market will be open each Saturday from 7 a.m. until noon until the season ends in November.
Susan Graham, who operates Laureland Greenhouses in Todd, says she is glad to be back at the farmers’ market and is happy that summer is just around the corner.
“We’re excited to have the market started again. We’re glad to be here, glad that May has come and we’re all doing pretty good. It’s good to see everybody that we haven’t seen since last fall and our supporters are coming out to see us here,” Graham said. “We are adjusting to the new policies – it’s a bit of an adjustment but I think it’s going to be okay.”
Watauga County Farmers’ Market President Matt Cooper, who also operates Lively Up Farm, is proud to be part of the market where 100 percent of everything is locally grown and produced, even if there are some new procedures in place that folks are getting used to.
“Things are going nice, it’s definitely not as crowded as it would have normally been but the traffic looks steady and so far everybody is following good guidelines for safety,” Cooper said. “All the food is here as it seasonally comes in. It’s important to support your local farmers and that we keep farms in our backyards and not be depending on overseas food.”