Today’s Topic: COVID-19, social distancing and farmers markets; markets need the public’s help

By on April 7, 2020

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

We are beginning to get into the busier time at our farmers markets, which is creating challenges for social distancing. We are asking the public to help us keep these markets open, by doing their part on social distancing.  


  • I guess we could call this COVID-19
    Episode 3.0.
  • A lot of our time at the
    department has been in dealing with the latest restrictions and executive
    orders surrounding COVID-19. In Episode 2.0, you may remember that we talked
    about our farmers markets being a good source of fresh meats, vegetables and fruits
    and providing an important service for communities.
  • This week, we were still
    focusing on state-operated farmers markets. We issued a plea to the public to
    help us keep them open by strictly following all social distancing rules.
  • We need the public’s help in
    achieving the social distancing that is expected at places that remain open to
    meet the food needs of the population.
  • We are heading into a busy time
    for the market, with strawberries coming into season and a lot of plants
    arriving. We will see the traffic, especially on the weekends, really pick up.
  • At any other time, that is a
    great thing. Our farmers are happy to see loyal customers coming in and looking
    for produce, meats, plants and prepared food items. They stock the shelves to meet
    the needs.
  • But the social distancing
    measures and stay-at-home orders make this an “anything-but-routine” time. And
    we all have to do our part to keep this deadly virus from spreading even more
  • So, we have put together a few
    tips to help shoppers who are coming to the market. But, I will add that these
    same tips apply if you are going to the grocery store or any other open
  • Where we once looked at
    shopping as a leisurely, social pursuit, today, we have to look at it as an
    essential activity only.
  • In other words, get in, get
    what you need, and get back home.
  • I’ll admit that doesn’t sound
    like a good marketing slogan, does it?
  • I know we will get back to a
    place where these extreme and drastic measures are not necessary, but until
    this pandemic gets under control, we have to adjust our actions accordingly.
  • So what can consumers do?
    • Plan to shop on a lower-traffic day and not the weekends. At
      this time of year, there will be a good selection of seasonal items throughout
      the week, too.
    • Come to the market with a purpose. Bring a shopping list to
      be sure you get what you need.
    • If your favorite vendor offers curbside service, make use of
      it! Curbside pick-up reduces foot traffic at the market and contact with
    • Don’t hang out at a stand after your purchase. This opens up
      space for the next shopper.
    • Designate a shopper for your family. This is a big one. At
      this time, we encourage you NOT to bring your whole family with you to the
      market. I know everyone is looking for something to do to get out of the house,
      but grocery shopping is not it. Shopping needs to be a necessity.
    • And finally, be mindful and courteous of other shoppers.
      Keep your distance while waiting to make a purchase.
    • To help you visualize, six feet is equal to two yard sticks
      lined up end to end. Many markets are marking the distance on the ground, so
      look for those helpful spacing cues.
    • Don’t touch food products you don’t intend to buy. And, when
      you get home, as always, wash your produce before you prepare it.
  • We have seen parks, greenways
    and forests closed across the state because people were not following social
    distancing rules. We do not want our farmers markets to follow, because they
    are essential food providers in our communities.
  • Help us keep them open. Help
    support our local farmers. Help redistribute your shopping dollars back into
    the community. I know North Carolina farmers appreciate the support.
  • We will get through this. It’s
    going to be uncomfortable and maybe even painful in the short run, but if we follow
    the social distancing rules, we will get on the other side of this pandemic.  
  • In the meantime, wash your
    hands, keep your distance (6 feet) from others, stay safe and keep agriculture
    growing and providing.   
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