Fresh and Flourishing: Lake farmers markets see wide audiences, even with pandemic restrictions

Mitch Prentice
A row of tomatoes sits ready for purchase at the Camdenton Farmers Market in this 2019 file photo.

Farmers Markets still hold a dear place in local produce lover’s hearts that even a global pandemic can’t stop. The market season has been underway for a few weeks now and crowds of veggie and local craft lovers have not been in a shortage since. With staggered booth placement and safety features equipped, these markets are ready to make the trek through what is sure to be a unique summer season.  

Nathan Bechtold, director of the Osage Beach farmers market, says COVID did delay the beginning of their season, but other than that had little effect on getting the market up and running in 2020. Like many other markets in the area, he says they worked hand-in-hand with the health department to make sure their operations were following guidelines. This included providing hand sanitizer at the market entrance, not allowing food samples and recommending buyers bag their own produce. 

Looking on a larger scale, Bechtold feels that this pandemic will certainly have an effect on markets and open-area buying permanently, though maybe not all in a bad way.He says he thinks the idea of a fresh market has rejuvenated interest in supporting local farmers and buying local food, especially as shopped watch national supply chains dwindle and worry about empty supermarket shelves.

“I think open-air markets seem like a sensible place to shop when people are worried about infections in confined spaces. So we might actually see more interest in shopping in open-air settings,” Bechtold said. 

Ellis, who helps organize the Eldon Market, says they too are providing a number of enhanced safety features this year. She says that she felt a lot of excitement moving into the season, and the Friday afternoon market has seen a good amount of traffic since it opens. 

“We noticed a lot of excitement for the market to open this year,” Ellis said.

MARKET SAFETY TIPS DURING COVID: 

Before entering the market, remind yourself to avoid touching your face and cellphone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask or other cloth face covering when in places where social distancing can be difficult. 

Make sure to use a designated entry point when going in. The farmers market may have established separate entrances and exits to avoid bottlenecks of people coming and going.

Choose items with your eyes, not your hands. Let vendors handle the products you select. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people as much as possible. That means washing the whole produce, even if you don’t eat the peel. Wash items such as cantaloupe and potatoes with a produce brush.

Wash all produce before eating.

WHERE AND WHEN TO SHOP

• Eldon Farmers Market

Where: Rock Island Park

When: Fridays, 3-6 p.m.

More info: Farmers Market of Eldon on Facebook

• Osage Beach Farmers Market

Where: Peanick Park/Riverview Church (Hwy. 42)

When: Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

More info: Osage Beach Farmers Market on Facebook

• Camdenton Farmers Market

Where: Camdenton Square

When: Saturdays, 7 a.m.-noon

More info: Farmers Market in Camdenton on Facebook

• Linn Creek Farmers Market

Where: Linn Creek City Park

When: Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m.

More info: Linn Creek Farmers Market on Facebook

• Sunrise Farm Market

Where: 14539 Hwy. 5, Sunrise Beach

When: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.  

More info: Sunrise Farm Market on Facebook

• Farris Fruit and Vegetable Market

Where: 1715 North Business Hwy. 5, Camdenton

When: Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  

More info: Farris Fruit and Vegetable Market on Facebook