If you were walking down Ballard Avenue in Seattle last Sunday, you might have thought your eyes were playing tricks. But they weren't. Stretching down the block, there really was a line of people waiting for the bell tower to chime 10 a.m., which signaled the re-opening of the Ballard Farmers Market.
Washington was hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 700 deaths. But thanks to social distancing and a "flattening of the curve" in the state, just over a month later, a small sign of something almost resembling normalcy returned.
Of course, there were fewer vendors than usual, and a lot more rules. People stood six feet apart. There was a strict one-in-one-out rule once capacity was reached. And many people shopped from their cars.
People seemed happy to wait in line, mostly just to have something to do, but also to get their hands on some amazing fresh produce. Like Brent Olson's potatoes, which he drove all the way across the state to sell: "People, I think, are kind of fearful going to the grocery stores a lot more than just outdoor [stalls]," Olson said.
Karen Bean was selling her organic honey, from a safe distance, extending her credit card reader via a long stick to customers driving up in their cars.
On March 13 Seattle shuttered its farmers markets. But while the city's most famous public market, Pike Place, remains mostly closed, the Ballard Farmers Market was able to reopen. Sort of.
Correspondent Luke Burbank asked Doug Farr, the market's general manager, "Do people see it as something maybe more 'boutique' as opposed to just going to the standard grocery store?"
"Yes, I very much know that in our conversations with the city, there was a lot of it that they were referring to us as an 'event,'" said Farr.
Farr, and the growers he works with, are quick to remind people that what they sell is food, not unlike grocery stores, which of course have remained open.
Farr told Burbank, "In essence, we are a safer alternative than grocery stores, [considering] the amount of people that are in a grocery store at any given time having access to that product. These farmers are the people which have touched that product for the first time. They're bringing it to the farmers market and they're giving it to you. And they're giving it in open air."
On a typical Sunday last year, more than 20,000 people might show up to browse the fresh local produce. That number was way down this last week. But even so, with the sun shining and the market somewhat open again, it was nice to be reminded that "this, too, shall pass."
For more info:
- Ballard Farmers Market (Seattle Farmer's Market Association)
- Olson Farms, Colville, Wash.
- Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, Maple Falls, Wash.
Story produced by Anthony Laudato. Editor: Chad Cardin.