Food and Nutrition


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Considerations for Farmer's Markets During COVID-19

Farmers markets and direct-sale farmer and grower operations are vital to communities and small businesses across North Dakota in multiple ways:

Farmers Market

  • Farmers markets are as essential as grocery stores by providing access to healthy, local food.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified critical infrastructure during the COVID-19 emergency for public health and safety and community well-being. The food and agricultural sector is one of these sectors. As disruptions occur in food systems, locally grown and produced food will continue to play a role in food access.
  • Local foods provide additional avenues in economic development and stability in the local economy.
  • Local foods can be a source for foods available for sale through rural grocery stores when the supply chain is strained.
  • Farmers markets that accept SNAP meet the needs of more community members; SNAP participation will rise as food insecurity increases due to the loss of income/jobs as a result of COVID-19.
  • Farmers markets that accept SNAP allow for additional food dollars to be invested in the local economy.

While farmers markets and local foods serve an integral role in local economies, food access and community development, taking necessary precautions and safety measures to ensure the health of farmers, vendors, customers and the public is imperative.

According to federal policy, if a farmers market is an authorized SNAP retailer, SNAP acceptance must continue. Double Up or SNAP Incentive programs are administered and funded on an individual basis, and continuation of the program is encouraged, if done safely.

Examples of Farmers Market and Direct-sales Safety Measures to be Considered:

  • Provide sufficient handwashing stations and/or sanitizer for the public and vendors.
  • Sanitize between customers/frequently.
  • Mark customer waiting lines to indicate social/physical distances between customers and between vendors and customers.
  • Increase the distance between vendors and/or limit the crowd size at markets. This could be accomplished with market staff/volunteers counting customers. When crowds are larger than 50 people, utilize a one-in, one-out method.
  • Consider prioritizing food/farm vendors in operations for the 2020 season.
  • Do not allow sampling or self-service of ready-to-eat food.
  • Take steps to reduce contact and the time spent at vendor booths; offer pre-bagged items or rope off booths so that customers are not spending unnecessary time at booths.
  • Do not place tables and chairs at markets because these encourage people to gather without adequate distancing.
  • Discontinue/limit events and activities that draw people together.
  • Post signage to direct market operations and traffic flow, including designated entrances and exits.
  • Post signage and notices to remind vendors and customers to stay at home if they feel ill.
  • Offer and package ready-to-eat food for take-home only.
  • Follow CDC guidance for face masks for the public and those handling foods for sale.
  • Consider delivery/pickup/pre-orders/drive-through operations for eligible vendors in accordance with the Cottage Foods Law.
  • Sanitize hands between transactions and/or handle money separately.

Recommendations for Farmers Market Customers

  • Do not visit the market if feeling ill or experiencing any symptoms of an infectious disease.
  • Consider sending only one family member to the market.
  • Do not touch your face when in public.
  • Cover your face/cough/sneeze.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly before and after attending the market.
  • Wear a protective mask when in public.


Additional Resources:

NDSU Coronavirus:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus FAQ Page:
U.S. Department of Agriculture Coronavirus Info:
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Critical Infrastructure:
Food and Drug Administration:
North Dakota Department of Agriculture:
North Dakota Department of Health:
Input provided by FARRMS


Jan Stankiewicz, M.S., MPH cert.
NDSU Extension Community Health and Nutrition Specialist

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