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Taking Orders: NM farmers markets adapt to stay open

Chris Chavez, co-owner of Casa Fresco Farm, harvests crops to be sold at Albuquerque’s Downtown Growers’ Market. The market this year has changed to an order ahead and pick up model. Courtesy Casa Fresco Farm.

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Along with warming weather and budding leaves, the opening of farmers markets across the state serves as a signal that spring has officially arrived.

This year, things will look a little different as growers markets and vendors adapt to limitations on business enacted to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. While Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has included farmers markets in lists of essential businesses, some market staples – like handling produce and sitting at communal tables – will have to go.

In the Albuquerque area, markets such as the Downtown Growers’ Market and the Rail Yards Market, have adopted a preorder-pickup model that allows customers to get their items with no browsing involved.

“We’re hoping this temporary solution will help to keep our community connected, our small-business vendors in business and healthy local food on people’s tables,” Danielle Schlobohm, co-manager of the Downtown Growers’ Market, said in an email.

Schlobohm said that 34 vendors participated in the first week using the new pickup model and that 43 vendors plan to participate this weekend. Arts and crafts from participating vendors can be ordered the same way as fruits and vegetables.

During a normal season, the Downtown Growers’ Market usually features over 200 vendors. She estimates that more than 100 customers used the new service on the opening day.

Vendors are also learning how to adapt to new ways of business.

“We’re having to do a lot of behind-the-scenes things now – a lot more emailing, just figuring out how to manage our business in a totally different way than what we usually do,” said Amanda Chavez of Casa Fresco Farm.

She said she and her husband, Chris, are still learning how to switch over to a presale-based business. But it has so far been a success – the farm sold out of its produce last weekend.

“We’re hopeful that maybe it will continue that way, but these first few weeks have been very successful for our business,” Chavez said. “Just a lot of learning curves.”

The Rail Yards Market in Albuquerque, which opens May 3, is also planning to follow a preorder and pickup model.

Others, including the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market and the Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces, have chosen to remain open to foot traffic while instituting a variety of safety precautions, and observing the 20% capacity rule in place for businesses such as grocery stores.

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