Haile Farmers Market essential for food producers

Published: Apr. 18, 2020 at 4:49 PM EDT
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Its been held every Saturday for years and the Haile Farmers Market is one of the few left that hasn't shut down due to COVID-19. We met with some producers to learn how a few hours every Saturday is essential for their business.

When COVID-19 started forcing things to close many producers worried about the impacts on their business.

Jan Costa is the director for the Florida Fresh Meat Company who said, "we worried at first, as a matter of fact, there were certain officials that probably wanted us to close they thought it was dangerous. But we are considered essential, we're providing food for our community, people that buy from us every week that don't shop at local stores."

Amy Van Scoik is the owner of the Frog Song Organic Farm who added, "many of our other farmer's markets were canceled and all of a sudden we had staff available and lots of extra product and we needed to find a home for it. So we're very very happy we could come to the Haile Farmers Market because it really saved us in a moment of wondering what are we going to do with all these crops."

Farmers' markets for many producers are the main way to offload product especially since most of the restaurants they also sell to have cut down on spending.

Van Scoik said, "springtime is our busiest peak season that's when we actually do most of our sales for the year. That's when we also do most of our restaurant sales because restaurants we work with are really featuring local items and our restaurant business is almost down to zero."

Still, the farmers market board has made sure to implement safety strategies so they can remain open every Saturday.

Van Scoik said, "we're not having customers touch the produce just to minimize any possibility of increasing contact amongst people, it also helps keep more space between the customers and staff."

And while producers say crowds are definitely smaller, it's because customers are focusing less on just looking around but they're also buying more than before.

Costa chimed in, "we've seen an increase in what they're buying, instead of buying for a day or two they're buying for a week or two. So we've seen an increase in purchases per person."

Normally the Haile Farmers Market has around 50 vendors, this week they only had 24 although a director says that was partially due to bad weather.