Farmers markets can open Friday, with limits

VAAFM photo of the Capital City Farmers Market in Montpelier.

Vermont Business Magazine The Agency of Agriculture recognizes the importance of farmers markets to our farmers, communities, heritage and culture. Farmers markets will be able to re-open on May 1, following guidance from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. These guidelines are meant to protect Vermonters health and safety while allowing access to local food. These include: outdoor markets only, wearing of face masks by vendors, food only vendors, social distancing of vendors and customers, no congregating of customers, no entertainment.

See below for the Farmers Market Guidance and update released April 24 by Governor Phil Scott:

2.3 Farmers Markets (effective May 1)

  • Farmers markets may open using limited in-person operations to ensure consumer access to quality, healthy food if:
    • They adhere to all municipal ordinances and rules and their local municipality agrees to allow opening.
    • Markets must significantly alter their business practices to eliminate crowds and reduce contact between vendors and customers including a temporary transition away from shopping and social events to primarily a food distribution using the methods prescribed in section 1.2 above.
    • Markets are directed to use a “pre-order, local food pick-up” model and to follow any additional guidance by the Agency of Agriculture and Food Markets.


This guidance is intended to help farmers markets’ serve communities and provide direct access to healthy, nutritious foods, while also supporting local farmers and food businesses. Farmers markets must follow the guidance below.
General Guidance Applicable to all Business, Non-Profit and Government Operations

• Employees shall not report to, or be allowed to remain at, work or job site if sick or symptomatic (with fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath).
• All employees must observe strict social distancing of 6 feet while on the job, unless noted, and should refrain from touching their faces.
• Employees must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when in the presence of others. In the case of retail cashiers, a translucent shield or “sneeze guard” is acceptable in lieu of a mask.
• Employees must have easy and frequent access to soap and water or hand sanitizer during duration of work, and handwashing or hand sanitization is required frequently including before entering, and leaving, job sites and workstations. All common spaces and equipment, including bathrooms, frequently touched surfaces and doors, tools and equipment, and vehicles must be cleaned and disinfected at the beginning, middle and end of each shift and, when possible, prior to transfer from one person to another.
• When working inside, open doors and windows to promote air flow to the greatest extent possible and limit the number of people occupying a single indoor space.
• No more than 2 people shall occupy one vehicle when conducting work.
• All businesses continue to be urged to use remote work whenever possible.

Customer & General Public Mask Use
• Customers, and the public in general, are encouraged to wear cloth face coverings any time they are interacting with others from outside their household.

General Farmers’ Market Operations
• Markets need to comply with all local permits and regulations.
• Markets shall designate a health and safety officer to ensure compliance with all health and safety requirements.
• Move indoor markets outside.
• Suspend entertainment activities, children’s activities, and all associated components that encourage people to congregate (e.g. music, cooking demos, etc.).
• Only food vendors with raw or value-added agricultural products or edible plant starts are permitted (no crafts, jewelry, etc.).
• Value-added products must be pre-packaged and consumed off-site.
• Require vendors to offer online or phone ordering options for community members to pre-order and pre-pay for pick-up.

For pick-up orders:

  • The market should develop pick-up locations for customers and establish a “runner” to help facilitate pick-up orders between customers and vendors.
  • Encourage customers to remain in their car or in a safe location while waiting for their orders. Customers shall not be allowed to congregate. Pre-payment should be required whenever possible. Vendors shall require online/electronic/touchless/cashless payment whenever possible (e.g. Venmo or PayPal) and make every effort to eliminate the need for change to be made. EBT transactions must be allowed.

For in-person shopping:
 In-person shopping should be discouraged. When necessary, vendors shall require online/electronic/touchless/cashless payment when in-person shopping whenever possible (e.g. Venmo or PayPal) and make every effort to eliminate the need for change to be made. EBT transactions must be allowed.
 For customers who did not pre-order, the market shall ensure flow in a single direction from entry to exit (e.g. redesign the market so that vendor booths are in a single row, L shape, or U shape), create 6 feet distancing lines/markers throughout the market area to ensure adequate social distancing and prevent congregation.
• Establish market pick-up times for customers at higher risk such as the elderly, or those with weakened immune systems or respiratory conditions.
• Mandate all vendors/staff wear masks and mandate gloves while packaging orders and serving customers.
• Make hand sanitizer or hand washing stations available at entry and exit points.
• Prohibit staff/vendors/customers from attending if they are sick or if they have been exposed to someone who is.
• Prohibit on-premise consumption of food or drink, including all types of sampling and consumption of prepared food.
• Pre-bag all loose produce to the extent possible and prohibit handling of product by anyone other than vendors.

Implement Social Distancing Requirements
• Vendors shall maintain a 12-foot buffer between booths to ensure adequate distancing between customers at all times.
• Physical barriers or markings are required to ensure spacing between vendor booths and customers.
• Rope off market premises and limit access to a single direction of travel with designated entry and exit point.
• Strongly encourage online/electronic/touchless payment whenever possible (e.g. Venmo or PayPal) and exact change for cash payments to eliminate the need for change to be made. EBT transactions must be allowed.
• Encourage shoppers to come to the market alone whenever possible to reduce the number of people in the market area and strictly prohibit pets from the market area.

Utilize Proper Cleaning and Sanitary Protocols
• Mandate masks for all vendors/staff and mandate gloves while packaging orders and serving customers.
• Ensure employees engage in good hygiene practices, including regular and thorough handwashing. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
• Limit the number of surfaces in the market area.
• Regularly clean AND disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as produce bins, tabletops, handles. Dirty surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection.
• To disinfect, use products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface.

Prepare and Increase Clear Communication Strategy
• Post signage instructing vendors and customers to frequently wash hands and provide hand washing instructions.
• Post signage prohibiting vendors and customers from congregating or lingering and reminding all to abide by 6-foot social distancing guidelines.
• Require vendors to encourage customers to pre-order and pre-pay whenever possible. Post signage encouraging customers to pre-order and pre-pay whenever possible.
• Prepare customers in advance to support new requirements by posting them on social media, websites and in newsletters.
• Post signage prohibiting sick people or those who have been exposed.

Anson Tebbetts, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. To read the guidance document, click here.