SUMMIT, NJ - Calling it "essential for both farmers and participating businesses and residents during the coronavirus crisis," Summit Mayor Nora Radest personally reached out to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s office to gain approval to open the Summit Farmers Market. According to the Mayor, not only did the governor’s office approve the request, it highly encouraged it.
The Market has announced it will launch its 2020 season beginning May 10 in a new location with revised consumer and vendor parameters that have been necessitated by the current social distancing guidelines in place.
"The layout of the Farmers market is being redesigned so that it is easy and intuitive for people to stay six feet apart," said Radest. "With these guidelines in place and strictly enforced, shopping outdoors can be a safe and viable option.”
While plans are moving ahead to begin the Market's season in the new, larger location of Park & Shop Lot #1 -- located at the corner of DeForest and Woodland Avenues -- final approval must be granted by the Summit Common Council for the site change at its meeting on April 28. Council President Marjorie Fox said, “The larger lot will help simplify physical distancing requirements and allow for safer shopping.”
For its part, Summit Downtown, Inc. -- which operates the Market -- stated in a news release announcing the opening that, "SDI will be working with the vendors and the City during the opening weeks of the season to tweak rules and operations as they learn and observe how things are going." The release also noted that, "The Park & Shop Lot #1 location was chosen in order to provide more space between the vendors and for the customers to remain safe."
The Market's public health and safety guidelines will include:
- Masks or face coverings will be required for both customers and vendors.
- Painted lines on the sidewalk outside of Park & Shop Lot #1 will provide a social distancing guide for those waiting to enter the market.
- Upon entry, customers are required to remain six-feet from others inside the Market.
- Customers will enter at the vehicle entrance on DeForest Avenue and exit at the alleyway at the back of the parking lot near Woodland Avenue.
- Only one person per family may shop at a time.
- Only vendors will be allowed to handle their own merchandise so customers will need to shop individually with the vendor at each stand.
- Vendors will also offer a 'touchless' pay system in addition to cash.
- Customers are also being asked to limit their time inside the Market to 15 minutes to allow for shorter wait times for other customers.
- Currently, dogs will not be permitted in the Market.
Summit Downtown, Inc. is also currently working with Beyond Main to establish an online system to enable customers to pre-order from some of their favorite vendors and pick up their pre-paid orders at the vendor. As of now, there will not be a separate section for pre-orders to be picked up.
On March 21, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order Number 107, which directed all residents to stay at home until further notice and mandated the closure of all non-essential businesses. The order provides for certain exceptions, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities. Among the businesses exempted from closure were farmer's markets.
On April 24, the same day Murphy announced that the Garden State had surpassed the 100,000 mark of COVID-19 cases, the governor said that some New Jersey counties have "slid backwards," at least as it relates to the rate at which COVID-19 positive cases are doubling. Because of this reality, he said, “we cannot ease up one bit” on social distancing or stay-at-home restrictions.
The Summit Farmers Market's 25th year of providing fresh, locally-sourced food and produce to customers in Summit and beyond will see it open Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through November 22.