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Two Seattle farmers markets reopen, with new rules

caption: As the U District farmers market reopened, Jennifer Antos limited the number of patrons at one time.
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As the U District farmers market reopened, Jennifer Antos limited the number of patrons at one time.

Organizers called the limited reopening of two farmers markets in Seattle this weekend an important step.

But they warned shoppers that public health rules would make it a very different experience.

Seattle's farmers markets have been closed for five weeks now due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But limited versions of the University District and Ballard markets were allowed to open this weekend after painstaking preparations.

Shoppers heading to the University District Farmers Market on Saturday created a well-spaced line outside its northern entrance, along the University Heights property.

Jennifer Antos, executive director of Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets, guarded the perimeter with a walkie-talkie, allowing people to enter in twos and threes as other shoppers left from the market’s south exit.

“We have the ability to basically control the capacity to about 62 customer at any time,” Antos said. She added that the line moves faster at some time than others, but shoppers at this inaugural event have been patient and full of gratitude.

There are no buskers, and no hot, prepared food — just thirty vendors selling produce, meat, and dairy. Antos said flower vendors aren't currently allowed.

“We’re working to hopefully change that,” she said. “These farmers are also food growers in the summer, but they need this income to continue farming.”

People were asked to take an oath of good behavior, and to shop briskly, without touching the food. As the market warned in an email, “It’s not a gathering space, a Saturday activity, or an excuse to get outside.” Not right now.

“We’re asking people just to make it a quick trip,” Antos said.

Antos added that she doesn’t yet know how much this new setup will benefit the vendors.

“I think it’s a little bit of a mixed bag," she said. "It’s a big step forward to be open. But right now we’re limited in our ability to serve people.

“One of the things we’re considering is, if people have prepaid orders, we’ll do a curbside pickup so they don’t have to necessarily walk through the market," Antos continued.

That’s something the Ballard Farmers Market is offering as they reopen Sunday. Antos has also started the Good Farmer Fund to assist vendors affected by the market shutdown.

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