Milwaukee-area farmers markets relax some COVID rules in 2021

Most farmers’ markets are in their second pandemic season. They’ve done it before and they know what to expect, as much as anyone can expect with this now-it’s-now-it’s-not-rising virus, with loop launch variants.

This year, market buyers will find some of the 2020 COVID precautions relaxed, while other protocols will remain in place to keep buyers and sellers safe.

“We want to keep a good plan going,” said Jennifer Casey, Executive Director of the Fondy Food Center. He oversees the Fondy Farmers Summer Market on the north side of Milwaukee and the Winter Farmers Market at Mitchell Park Domes on the south side, and Casey noted that no COVID-19 cases were linked to either or the other market.

In 2020, farmers’ markets have changed almost every aspect of the way they do business – pretty much on the fly – because of the novel coronavirus. Mask, distancing, market traffic and other measures have been put in place to make shopping as safe as possible.

Typical activities that meant people gathered and lingered – like live performances, cooking demonstrations, and even consuming food and drink on site – have come to a halt.

At Tosa Farmer’s Market In the business district of Wauwatosa Village, customers will find things as they were last season: capacity limits, distance, masks required for vendors and volunteers, no eating or drinking inside the market and a preference for a family member to shop.

“The risk is always there and we want people to feel comfortable. We want sellers to feel safe, ”said Nicole Adrian, Chair of the Board of Tosa Farmers Market. This year’s Tosa Manufacturers’ Market, the first Saturday of each month, will be held across the bridge to nearby Hart Park.

Likewise, the Riverwest Gardeners Market retains its COVID protocols, such as the requirement for face masks for all, and it remains at its pandemic Pierce Street location north of Center Street, to allow market visitors and vendors to spread along the block. But the market is growing this year: it will have up to 28 vendors on-site throughout the season and 12 more vendors who will appear intermittently, according to Ruth Weill, the market coordinator.

Market managers will keep their eyes on the pandemic and the number of cases to see if they can relax the rules further or have to tighten them again.

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Some other changes buyers can expect to see this market season:

Plants for borders, gardens and containers are sold in early season markets, as shown here at the West Allis Farmers Market in May 2021.

West Allis Farmers Market eliminates the first few hours for at-risk buyers, many of whom are now presumably vaccinated. The early hours had received mixed reviews from vendors, said Caitlyn White, tourism and events coordinator for the City of West Allis. But if the first few hours are necessary after all, she said, the market would bring them back.

West Allis Market is launching a Friends Group this year open to individuals, couples and families; the band’s support would help fund more music and special events in the market and help keep the market going. Registration and more information, such as member benefits, are available at westalliswi.gov/sponsorships.

• At Fondy farmer’s market, manufacturers, including jewelers, will again be welcomed as sellers this year. (In 2020, the market was limited to vendors selling food and wellness products.) And shoppers can once again bring their own reusable bags to take their purchases home.

Casey said the market will start the season without live music but “will see how the season unfolds.” And customers are always advised not to eat foods prepared in the market.

Last year’s construction project that blocked part of the market with fences has been completed, and new toilets and a new office are in place.

South Shore Farmer’s Market in the Bay View neighborhood will once again allow guests to bring dogs, but with some restrictions (dogs must be kept on a short leash, not on a retractable leash, for example, and shoppers should not congregate around dogs irresistible as they were; further guidelines were to be set out on the website, southshorefarmersmarket.com).

The lakeside market will also allow two-way foot traffic this year, and shoppers will again be encouraged to bring their reusable cloth bags with shopping.

• The South Milwaukee Downtown Market on Milwaukee Avenue resumes live music this year, from June to October. The music starts at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

• Sales of the plant company are back to Brookfield Farmers Market, held at Brookfield Central High School: dahlias on May 22 and daylilies on June 5.

• The Greenfield Farmers Market will continue to maintain distance and one-way foot traffic and encourage mask wear, but will re-allow samples, provided they are distributed individually. The market will bring back live music each week, as well as cooking demonstrations, story time and a bike rodeo.

Contact food critic Carol Deptolla at [email protected] or (414) 224-2841, or via the Sentinel Food & Home Journal page on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter at @mkediner or Instagram at @mke_diner.

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