With Palatine farmers market set to open Saturday, organizers 'feel the pressure of doing this right'
Organizers say Palatine's long-running summer farmers market will serve as a test of sorts when it opens for the season Saturday under restrictions aimed at operating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facial coverings or masks, social distancing and a prohibition of food sampling will be among the measures taken at the outdoor market, which will run from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. in downtown Palatine's Metra station parking lot.
Only vendors will be allowed to handle products before a sale, and anyone feeling ill should stay away, organizers say.
Farmers markets have been deemed an essential business and may operate under an executive order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Palatine will use an "in-and-out" model encouraged by the North Aurora-based Illinois Farmers Market Association.
Evanston will conduct business the same way for the opening of its seasonal market Saturday.
Marg Duer, who is Palatine's village clerk and the founder and manager of the roughly 30-year-old farmers market, stressed it won't be an opportunity to socialize or enjoy music like in the past. Patrons will be expected to make a purchase from the market operated by the nonprofit Palatine Sister Cities Association and exit quickly.
"We feel the pressure of doing this right, because I believe a number of market managers from the area will be scouting out how we're doing things and how it's working," Duer said.
Other recommendations include admitting only one family member and sanitizing hands before entering. Visitors also are asked to leave children and pets at home.
As for the vendors, a face covering and sanitary gloves are required at all times, and a designated worker who isn't handling products must use a tray for cash and credit cards. Everything sold must be prepackaged or provided in single-use bags to customers, who are to abide by a 6-foot marking from products.
Duer said volunteers will dispense hand sanitizer to customers at the entrances and monitor the crowd in the market area to ensure a 6-foot distance is being observed.
Many other suburbs are scheduled to begin farmers markets in June. Original opening dates were still listed Wednesday for markets in Schaumburg, Elgin, Lake Zurich and 95th Street in Naperville, but Arlington Heights' now is to be determined.
Janie Maxwell, executive director of the Illinois Farmers Market Association, said it's important for the events to continue because they provide access to healthy, local food. She said there also is the matter of keeping farmers in business.
In an association survey that had 89 responses as of March 31, members expressed concern about closing or losing significant revenue if farmers markets were not held in Illinois this year. Outdoor markets already open downstate have been using drive-through, curbside and in-and-out models.
"One of the reasons we wanted to make sure that these (COVID-19 operating) guidelines were available to our local communities was to paint the picture that, yes, it's not business as usual," Maxwell said. "It's not that great community social gathering opportunity with food. But farmers markets are significant places for the sale of food."
Dan Pilguy, a Palatine market organizer and owner of Arlington Crest Farms in the village, will be present for Saturday's opening with a selection of organic vegetables, herbs and fruit. He expressed confidence the Palatine market has the necessary regulations in place to operate safely.
"I think all the vendors collectively are going to feel the pressure," Pilguy said, "and we'll do what we can do."
Palatine's summer farmers market will run in Metra commuter parking lot B every Saturday through Oct. 31.