PORTLAND, Ore. — “We are calling this the ‘The Great Experiment,’” reads a message posted on the website of the Beaverton Farmers Market, “and as such, you are our guinea pigs!”
The experiment? A drive-through farmers market.
Beaverton isn’t the only market trying something new. Pre-orders and drive-throughs are some of the novel measures Portland-area farmers markets are adapting as the ongoing coronavirus crisis shuts down businesses across the state.
“We cannot operate normally because we are not living in normal times,” said Eamon Molloy, the market manager of the Hillsdale Farmers Market, on Thursday.
Hillsdale’s market is also adjusting its model.
“I knew by Sunday night that the best thing for the market to do was close the regular session and operate in a pre-order and drive-thru pickup manner,” Molloy said.
Customers will place orders with vendors online and then pick them up at the market location on Sunday. He said the Hillsdale market would still be able to process Oregon Trail cards at the differently structured market.
“We are doing this because the pandemic is real, it’s here and we are not ready for it,” Molloy said. “The market needs to change the way it operates.”
The Beaverton market is also hoping that customers order ahead with vendors, but will still allow for walk-ups and people who haven’t ordered ahead.
“It is going to be sunny and beautiful, so I expect that a lot of people will want to soak up the sun,” said Ginger Rapport, who manages the Beaverton market, on Thursday. “The most difficult thing from my perspective is not knowing what the ration of walkers to drivers will be. The learning curve will be steep in this first market.”
Both Hillsdale and Beaverton markets say they are taking extra precautions to distance people and stay as safe as possible.
“Our market is in a giant parking lot,” Rapport said. “There have been times when I wished that it had more ambiance, but now I am incredibly grateful for all of the asphalt.”
Farms who run stands are also altering practices.
Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, which generally has stands at farmers markets from Corvallis to Portland, is offering delivery to customers in Philomath and Corvallis.
The farm will also be distributing previously ordered boxes in Newport and at the Hillsdale market on Sunday.
They also plan on being at markets in Corvallis and at Portland State University this weekend.
“We are pre-bagging all of our greens,” said Sarah Reffett, a spokesperson Gathering Together Farms.
“We are asking anyone visiting," she added, "not to touch our produce.”
The farm will stick to social distancing rules and put up signs telling customers not to pick through the produce.
“If you are going to touch it,” Reffett said, “you have to buy it.”
Gathering Together won’t be the only farm stand following strict health guidelines at the Portland Farmers Market at PSU on Saturday.
The market announced Thursday that all vendors would be pre-bagging produce. Sampling is also no longer allowed, and all entertainment is canceled.
“We want everyone who has sent us their concerns, comments, and support over the past few days to know that we hear you,” the market said in a statement on their website. “We share your concerns about both public health and continued access to fresh, nutritious food. With your help, we can preserve both of these vital priorities and keep our community safe and healthy.”
-- Lizzy Acker