LA GRANDE — Booths selling vegetables, plants and homemade treats lined Fourth Street between Adams and Jefferson avenues as the annual La Grande Farmers Market made its seasonal debut Saturday morning.
However, a rope perimeter surrounded the market, allowing a single entry way, and workers wore gloves and masks.
“As much as we want people to come support the market, we want to stay safe,” said Jessica Bogard, the market’s manager.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the market implemented several other safeguards. Booths were 10 feet apart, and chalk lines on the concrete surface of Max Square measured out the recommended 6-foot social distance between customers. Only food producers and makers could sell goods at Saturday’s market. Customers were not allowed to pick up items until they were ready to buy them, and hand sanitizer was available at every table.
Most sellers came prepared, Bogard said, but the market had a supply of gloves, masks and sanitizer ready.
The steps to curtail the spread of the coronavirus did not seem to bother market shoppers and some, such as La Grande resident Alicia McConnell, appreciated the extra precautions.
“I like how they are trying to keep everyone safe and I want to support local growers,” McConnell said. “It helps they told everyone what to expect on Facebook and took the time to plan it out.”
The La Grande Farmers Market worked with sellers to manage their expectations and gain the understanding of the new protocols. Sarah Fisher from Evergreen Family Farms, La Grande, said she is doing everything possible to ensure customers are safe when they visit her booth.
“We are all wearing face masks, gloves and practicing vigilant social distancing, including when we are dealing with produce as we grow it,” Fisher said. “I live with the philosophy that no one will be hurt if we are cautious, but people might if we are not, so better to be on the safe side and be more cautious.”
One draw of the market’s opening day was the chance to get out of the house and socialize. However, because many are still under self-quarantine, Bogard said, there weren’t as many people who came to the first market as in previous years.
Union County was among Oregon’s 31 counties that received permission Friday to enter Phase 1 of Gov. Kate Brown’s plan to reopen the state. Those counties must maintain certain public health criteria for at least 21 days before moving onto Phase 2 and further reopening.
While the market was going on, a couple of members of the Union County Republicans returned to the sidewalk across the street and in front of La Grande City Hall to protest for the full reopening of the state of Oregon.
A group of about 10 protesters had gathered a week ago to demand the governor reduce state restrictions.