Hingham Farmers Market opens May 16: Looking forward to a ‘robust’ season with a new format

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Submitted by the Hingham Farmers Market

April 13, 2020

The Hingham Farmers Market is looking forward to another robust season, but is delaying its opening until May 16 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We look forward to welcoming our vendors and customers back for another great season, but this year’s market, at least for the time being, is going to look and feel quite different. We’re working closely with state and local public health officials to provide a safe and functional open-air market,” said Mark Cullings, the market’s president.

“Farmers’ markets are considered an ‘essential service’ by the Commonwealth, and are a link in the food chain we all depend on. We now see threats to that food chain with reports of farmers plowing under their crops because they have lost markets or the way to get their food to market," he said. "The Hingham Farmers Market’s primary mission is to support local agriculture. That mission has never been more important. New England agriculture can’t support its entire population, but our market along with other farmers’ markets and farm stands are critical links in the food supply chain for our region.”

Cullings said that our leaders, both at the state and local levels, "must do all they can to assure that farm stands and farmers’ markets are allowed to operate. Save our farms!”

Cullings' concerns grew after reading this article in the New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/business/coronavirus-destroying-food.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Business

Farmers’ markets are one of the best ways citizens can access fresh, local food products, and every purchase supports our farmers who have committed their lives to growing and producing healthy food.

Until the crisis has eased, the HFM will limit its vendors to those who produce food and is designing both a footprint and operational procedures that comply with state and local guidelines. These currently include: increased distances between vendor booths, establishing social distancing practices for our customers, limiting the number of customers in the same space at the same time, no product handling or sampling, and encouraging online ordering.

"Many people may feel more comfortable shopping at an open-air market than in a building," Cullings said.

A number of HFM vendors currently offer online or phone orders, and we’re encouraging more to do so.  The market is working on plans for these orders to be picked up at the market. “We expect the demand for local farm products to be the highest we’ve ever seen -- based on reports of booming sales in various food categories -- and we have to respond with ways to make it easier for people to get what they need,” Cullings said.

HFM Vice President Linda Luke said, “As always, the Friends of the HFM play an important role in making the market run.  One of their most important roles is running SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) transactions.  This program may look a little different this year, as we switch from tokens to paper chits, but SNAP customers will still be able to use their benefits to purchase fresh, locally-grown foods."

Thanks to the generosity of the Fruit Center Marketplace, the HFM's popular “match” program will continue.

Further, both Luke and Cullings agree that there is likely to be a need for more volunteers this year and are asking that members of the community consider giving some hours to the market.

For more information or to volunteer, email info@hinghamfarmersmarket.org.

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