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A local staple, the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market will return June 13 with new rules in place due to coronavirus

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
Richard Buske sells a few bunches of radishes in May 2014 at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market in the northwest corner of the Crossroads Mall.

A staple of summer for the past 36 years, the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market will kick off on June 13 in the northwest corner of the Crossroads Mall, 217 S. 25th St.

The market will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays through Oct. 24.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the market is going to look a little different than years past.

When shoppers arrive at the market, they will be greeted with signs directing anyone who has had a fever or has been ill recently to not enter the market. Marketgoers will also be asked to practice social distancing of at least six feet, and will not be allowed to touch vendors’ products.

Navigating a farmers market during a global pandemic is a new challenge for Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market Association President Phil Brown.

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
Kim Taylor, owner of Kim Taylor, owner of Taylor Produce in Sac City, weighs out an order of tomatoes for a customer in May 2014 at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market. Taylor’s soil-grown tomatoes are raised in a greenhouse.

“It’s been a crazy year, so we’re not sure just how things are going to go,” he said. “Hopefully everything goes well.”

He said that vendors will also be practicing social distancing and the market will have them set up their booths with more space in between. Vendors will also be wearing masks and gloves. Additionally, they will have hand sanitizer and wipes at their booths.

Brown said he isn’t sure how many vendors will be set up at the first market on June 13.

“Usually we’re only a few to start with, as it takes a little while to get gardens going,” he said.

Brown said that with June 13 being the first farmers market, the association may choose to amend some of its new rules as it sees fit.

-Messenger file photo by Hans Madsen
Katie Donnelly, then of Cedar Rapids, looks over a few stalks of rhubarb in May 2014 as her dad, Jim Donnelly, owner of Airport Gardens, looks on at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market held on the northeast corner of the Crossroads Mall.

“We’ll just have to see how things work and what’s the best for our market here,” he said. “We’ll just have to play it by ear, I guess.”

Diane Peterson, secretary and treasurer for the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market Association, started as a vendor for her dad’s orchard, Chester Willhoite’s Orchard and Produce from Lehigh. Since then, she’s played an active role in the association.

“I am most excited about being able to have all of our vendors return this year,” she said. “Due to the governor’s regulations we aren’t currently able to include vendors with any products that aren’t locally grown produce or homemade baked goods. We usually have vendors selling plants, flowers, soaps, lotions, lavender, jewelry — many, many different items.”

While those other vendors may not be able to participate in the first weeks of the market, Peterson hopes they can join later on in the season.

Peterson still helps run her dad’s booth at the market, selling homegrown apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, peppers, watermelon, muskmelon and winter squashes.

“Locally grown and family owned is our motto,” she said.

Both Brown and Peterson highlighted the importance of locally grown produce and shopping at farmers markets to contribute to the local economy.

“Locally grown produce is tastier, healthier and consumers should be aware that produce farmers are desperately loyal to the soil — any chemical product is very controlled,” Peterson said.

The Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market is proud of its long history in Fort Dodge and the relationships it has built and fostered over the past three decades, Peterson said.

“Our group is like a family — we all help each other out,” she said. “I’d ask the public to come check out the market — ask questions, say thanks.”

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