By Stephanie Harling, Mary Beth Driscoll and Ann Hippensteel
The South Shore Farmers Market plans to open June 20. Organizers were given approval to proceed by Milwaukee County officials, along with steps that must be implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The market season is currently scheduled to be held each Saturday from 8am to noon from June 20 until late October. Market organizers warn that its plans for the season are fluid and subject to change, since the pandemic threat changes daily. Therefore, the start date may change. Customers can monitor updates and changes that will be posted on its Facebook page, South Shore Farmer’s Market.
“Our first priority is creating a market that puts safety first and that required that many policy changes were made to ensure our operations are in compliance with local measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19,” said Stephanie Harling. “The SSFM committee has been working diligently in partnership with the Milwaukee County Parks to create a safe shopping experience for customers, vendors, volunteers, and staff at the market. Our compliance procedures dovetail with requirements established by Milwaukee County and guidelines provided by the State of Wisconsin.”
One of the biggest changes affecting the 2020 season is the county’s decision to close South Shore Drive to vehicular traffic Saturday mornings. In addition, the market’s footprint will be expanded to accommodate social distancing. Vendors will be located on the sidewalk on the South Shore Drive as in previous years but their placement will stretch a greater distance—from East Estes Street on the north, to East Rusk Street to the south.
Another row of vendors will be located behind those along the South Shore Drive sidewalk, providing increased space between the rows to accommodate shoppers.
The volunteer members of the South Shore Farmers Market Committee met virtually to plan the 2020 market season, one that required dramatic changes to protect vendors and shoppers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Top: Stephanie Harling, Angie Tornes and Mark Budnik, Kathy Mulvey; Middle: Mary Beth Driscoll, Ann Hippensteel, Sue Boyle Bottom: Mike Mortell, Chad VanDierendonck. Not shown are committee members Amy Mihelich, Kurt Mihelich, and Mike O’Toole Photo Angie Tornes
In an effort to comply with safety guidelines, the market committee is hiring two additional market staff members to manage compliance requirements among vendors, customers, and volunteers. Customers are asked to follow the following compliance requirements:
• To avoid people congregating in groups, the committee asks that only one person per household attend the market.
• The market will not be allowed to provide picnic tables for friends and family to gather as in prior years.
• In addition, all prepared food purchased at the market must be taken home and not eaten on site.
• Dogs will be prohibited this season. “We understand how much Bay View loves its dogs, but this year they cannot be allowed in the market,” said Mary Beth Driscoll.
• The 2020 market will operate by the motto: “We wear a mask for you and ask that you wear one too.” To carry this out, all vendors, staff, and volunteers will be required to wear masks to promote safety. All attendees are asked to wear a mask out of respect for the farmers and food producers.
• Customers will be required to practice physical distancing, whether walking through the market or while waiting in line at a vendor’s booth. Hand sanitizing stations will be provided within the market, and customers will be asked to be diligent in frequently cleaning their hands.
• Customers will not be allowed to touch any product before it is purchased. The vendor will place purchases in a single-use bag and will not be allowed to use any bag a customer brings to the market.
• SSFM organizers ask that customers limit browsing time and use the market as a product pick-up destination when possible. Customers are encouraged to limit their time at the market by pre-ordering as much as possible with those vendors providing that option. A list of vendors providing online orders will be posted on the SSFM Facebook page, and at the market’s website, southshorefarmersmarket.com. Information will be posted close to the start of the market season. Each vendor will have its own methods concerning the way pre-orders will be facilitated.
• If a customer—or anyone in their household—is not feeling well, SSFM organizes ask that they please stay home. COVID-19 safety guidelines recommend that customers who have been sick must be free of fever for at least 72 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication), have improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), and that at least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
• All vendors must operate 15 feet apart from one another and are required to wear face masks.
• All vendors and their employees who are ill are not allowed at the market. To screen for illness, vendors, volunteers, and staff will complete a weekly self-assessment checklist provided by Milwaukee County.
• At least two vendor employees must be at each vendor table, with one handling money and another handling produce or prepared food.
• Vendors must use barrier tables—an extra thee-foot-wide table that will be set up between the customer and the product.
• Customers should plan to put a cash payment on the barrier table and let the vendor pick it up. This limits the contact of the farm staff to prevent any possible transmission from or to customers.
• Only the vendor or their employee may handle the product before a purchase is completed.
• Single-use bags will be packed by the vendor.
• Vendors are required to clean/sanitize/disinfect surfaces including tables and tablecloths before the market opens.
• Vendors are required to regularly use hand sanitizer and single-use gloves where needed.
• Providing samples will not allowed.
• All prepared foods must be sold in “to-go” packaging.
Market welcomes FoodShare
Market organizers announced that this year for the first time since its launch in 1998, SSFM will accept payments made with FoodShare benefits, Wisconsin’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The market is partnering with the Bay View Community Center (BVCC) to institute the program.
According to the U.S. government’s Benefits.gov website, “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal nutrition assistance program. SNAP provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. This card can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores.” In Wisconsin it is known as the QUEST card.
“With an increased number of folks applying for FoodShare during the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to make sure farmers markets across Milwaukee County are safe places for shoppers to use their benefits,” said Extension Healthy Communities Coordinator Meg Kilkenny, in a press release about the 2020 farmers market season.
The Milwaukee Farmers Market Coalition (MFMC) is working to ensure that SNAP/EBT programs at farmers markets operate in a safe manner this season. The MFMC is cofacilitated by FoodWIse Extension Milwaukee County and Fondy Food Center. The coalition works to increase access to and use of farmers markets by low-income shoppers by making markets a welcoming and inclusive space for all.
How it works
Because many vendors don’t have the technology at their booth to process the card, SSFM will exchange FoodShare benefits for tokens. Customers will use their tokens to purchase eligible food items. Mike Mortell, president and CEO of the Bay View Community Center said that other Milwaukee markets, including Fondy, use the token
system. “It’s really great for community members who use FoodShare,” he said, noting they will have access to fresh food which will provide more customers for the market’s farmers, especially beneficial during the economic duress of the pandemic.
Additionally, another set of tokens will be available for customers who want to use a credit or debit card at the market. These non-Quest-based tokens can be used to purchase any market item and will be offered as a convenience for customers who who don’t want to use cash, Mortell said.
BVCC is seeking volunteers to assist with the token exchange each Saturday at the market. Mortell said he hopes a number of people will participate so the same volunteers “hopefully would not have to be at the market every Saturday.”
Additional changes customers can expect to see at the market:
• Additional staff
• Smaller vendor booths
• No entertainment
• No restroom availability. Currently Milwaukee County is required to keep the restrooms locked, so plan accordingly.
The South Shore Farmers Market organizers are optimistic that the market will once again be a place for people to support Wisconsin farmers and food producers, purchase nutritious food, and an opportunity to “spend some precious time outdoors.”
“We wish that we could hold the same type of market the community has come to enjoy over the years, a place for neighbors to connect and gather with friends and family,” said Stephanie Harling. “However, the required modifications to this year’s market operations are substantial and will create a very different experience.”
All the pandemic-related changes increase the need for volunteers. Anyone who is interested in helping out at the market is encouraged to use the SSFM Facebook page’s Messenger to privately communicate with market staff members.
“We thank everyone in advance for understanding that these are special times,” said Anne Hippensteel. “We thank you for working together to do what we can to help stop the spread. Stay strong Bay View — stay healthy. We’ll get through this together.”
The South Shore Farmers Market is planned and governed by a volunteer committee. The committee members include Susan Boyle, Mark Budnik, Mary Beth Driscoll, Brigid Globensky, Stephanie Harling, Amy Mihelich, Kurt Mihelich, Kathy Mulvey, Mike O’Toole, and Angie Tornes. SSFM managers are Ann Hippensteel and Chad VanDierendonck.
To learn more about volunteering or the exchange process click here, or contact BVCC, firstname.lastname@example.org