POCATELLO — The Portneuf Valley Farmers Market is having its opening weekend Saturday with a different look, as safety measures will be implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The market has been moved to the Union Pacific parking lot in Pocatello with vendor tables spaced 10 feet apart and only essential items offered, according to Ellen Loomis-Roberts, marketing director of the market.
The market will be open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Loomis-Roberts said the target date for a full opening is June 6, but it is a fluid situation in which that could happen earlier or later.
Postponing opening weekend was considered, said Loomis-Roberts. Before making the call, information was gathered from the Idaho Farmers Market Association, the governor’s office, the city of Pocatello and the health department.
“We had to try to get as much information as possible to make an informed decision about whether or not to open the market,” Loomis-Roberts said. “We felt as a board that it was beneficial to the farmers to go ahead and open the market up. Plants don’t stop growing at this time.”
Crafts will be prohibited from being sold at the market Saturday with few exceptions. There is a plethora of essential items offered, including produce, packaged food items, facemasks and homemade hand sanitizer among other items.
There will be 18 vendors, which Loomis-Roberts said is two fewer than last year’s opening weekend.
The number of vendors may have been able to nearly match last year’s count because organizers decided before the pandemic to open the market a week later than normal. The reasoning behind the decision was that farmers had less to sell on the earlier date.
Despite having nearly the same vendor count, Loomis-Roberts still said this is not going to be the market people recognize.
Among other safety measures enforced, there will be no seating, restrooms will be closed to the public and pets are not allowed. The market will try to keep foot traffic going in one direction within a circular path.
People in the at-risk group or who are ill are encouraged to stay home. Attendees are recommended to plan their purchases ahead, use the 6-feet social distancing rule, wash purchased produce before consuming and wear face masks.
Loomis-Roberts said it will be a purely shopping experience, instead of what it normally is at full scale.
“The thing about a farmers market is it’s an event, it’s a destination, it’s something for people to do on a Saturday,” she said. “When you turn it into just a shopping thing, it can’t be the experience people are looking for at the market, so we’re really curious to how it’s going to go.”
The market’s marketing director looks forward to a return to normal, hoping that it could be safe to fully open sometime in May.
“I really would like to see the whole market open sooner. I respect the crafters,” Loomis-Roberts said. “They worked really hard over the winter. They spent a lot of time creating their products and I respect that work they put in there and I want them to enjoy being able to make money on what they worked on.”
A list of the market’s vendors and other information can be found on the Portneuf Valley Farmers Market Facebook page.