No squeezing the tomatoes: Libertyville, Grayslake farmers markets ready for season
Farmers markets haven't been quelled by the coronavirus but like almost everything else, the operations will come with special rules and conditions.
What for many has been a leisurely social experience will become a quick trip as entertainment, kids' activities and related attractions are shelved. Forget painting, balloons or story time. In fact, visitors are encouraged not to bring children to promote social distancing and keep things moving.
"We're not even going to allow dogs this year," explained Al Scott, who has run the farmers market in downtown Libertyville for the MainStreet Libertyville organization for 14 years.
Products will be in the rear of stalls and shoppers won't be able to touch what they buy -- no squeezing the tomatoes. Instead, they'll point to what they want and a gloved vendor will select and bag the items.
Face masks will have to be worn by buyers and sellers and sanitizer will be prominent, as part of the recommendations from the Illinois Farmers Market Association.
Nonetheless, despite the logistical complications, large well-established markets like Libertyville, which is the original in Lake County and is celebrating its 40th season, and, Grayslake, which has run about 25 years, are preparing for another summer.
"We're really thrilled we're able to operate," said Julie Jason, the market manager in Grayslake. The market will be open 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays beginning June 3, downtown on Center Street.
Thirty-five vendors are lined up, although some had to be dropped to allow for distancing. Guidelines will be posted at vendor tents.
"It's an in-and-out market so we're asking people to limit the number of people they bring with them to the market and if there are multiple people that they split up and go to different vendors," Jason said.
In Libertyville, where some vendors have participated for decades, the market operates 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays beginning June 4 in Cook Park. Some 36 vendors -- about seven less than a typical year -- are on board, Scott said.
The rules will be different, socializing discouraged and patrons expected to buy and move on quickly. But a few things won't change.
In Grayslake, that will include "value-added" items like spices, honey and cookware, for example, according to Jason.
Libertyville also will have offerings familiar to visitors, including plants and flowers.
"Whatever they were getting last year, they'll be able to get this year," Scott said. "We'll pretty much be the same, just a lot more careful this year."
However, many farmers markets across the state are delayed and waiting to see what is next, said Janie Maxwell, executive director of the Illinois Farmers Market Association.
Models also may change, with some doing curbside pickup or delivery, for example.
"Most will look different from usual but will be a place to access local food and agriculture products," Maxwell said.