North Carolina farmers in several counties across the state are providing communities with access to fresh produce in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
With over 230 farmers markets and roadside stands in North Carolina, residents will be able to get local fresh food in their communities, rather than at grocery stores.
Hitt talked about how many local produce farmers work on slim margins, and any loss of income from weather events, reduced ability to sell, or foodborne illness can wipe out a farming family. He said keeping the market open was vital to local agricultural income.
He also spoke to the importance of continuing some aspects of community life.
“I saw this again after 9/11, the community aspect is huge,” he said. “People are freaked out about stuff and so to be able to come here and have some community, even if they have to stay three feet away, I’ve already seen it today that people are relaxed.”
Both Durham and Carrboro had their vendors prepackage bags of vegetables and asked that shoppers not handle the food. Instead, the idea was to have farmers give the food to customers, decreasing the possibility of bacterial contamination from many hands.
“Food is one of the most essential elements to survival, and it is important that we continue the operation of food sites such as the farmers markets even in the wake of this extraordinary global pandemic,” wrote Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in an email to NC Health News. “We are fortunate in North Carolina to have a strong agricultural industry, which means consumers have access to fresh local foods. Supporting local farms is important to continuing to have this access.”
“The key message we’re trying to help people get out is that if grocery stores are open, I don’t know why farmers markets shouldn’t be open,” said Roland McReynolds. “There’s no difference in the risk to public health, from going to a grocery store or going to a farmers market.
Currently, various farmers markets remain under normal business hours. As coronavirus cases increase, markets are implementing additional safety and cleaning measures in response to COVID-19. Sanitation schedules of the facility and signs are posted throughout the market to remind visitors to wash their hands.
Many farmers will also be making plans to open roadside stands, and pickup and delivery services. To contact your local farmers’ market for changes, go to https://www.ncfarmfresh.com/farmmarkets.asp
For information about North Carolina’s 230+ local farmers markets and to check with individual market locations as to hours of operation, go to https://www.ncfarmfresh.com/CertifiedStands.asp