Kalamazoo Farmers Market Adapts, Evolves0
Whether in our professional or personal lives, the past few months have been all about learning to make things work. Much like the rest of the world, Kalamazoo businesses have had to adapt their processes to correspond with the updated health standards.
At the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, patrons can usually walk around, listen to music, and buy food or crafts at their leisure; however, this has changed due to COVID-19.
Currently, the market is only selling produce, personal hygiene products, and pet food. After initially following a drive-thru format, plans to allow for in-person shopping were implemented and the staff has been following guidelines set by the Michigan Farmer’s Market Association.
“There are two designated entrances and exits and the capacity inside the market is set at 275 people,” Market Manager, Katelyn Bekken said of the Farmers Market’s plan. "We adhere to a one-out-one-in system. It might seem crowded when you are driving by, but the market is held in a large, outdoor space and we count every person that enters and exits. People have been very respectful, understanding that following the rules is what is allowing us to stay in business.”
During its first in-person weekend, the market had 1,700 customers. Attendance grew to 2,500 the second weekend. These visitors were able to purchase goods from 85 different vendors. Although the number of permitted vendors is lower than what the market would normally allow, Bekken has been impressed by everyone’s attitude.
“The vendors have all been very understanding,” she said. “We have a great community and are looking forward to when we can have all of our vendor participants back with us at the market.”
Seeing the reduced number of patrons and vendors as an opportunity, the market will be moving to Upjohn Park after Labor Day so that renovations can be made to its regular location. This year alone, new bathrooms will be added while the north lot and Bank Street will be redone.
The $10 million project includes replacing and extending the west pavilion further to the south, revamping walkways in the courtyards, and redoing the southern parking lot. Other renovations include the addition of a playground, a designated area for food trucks with access to electricity, and a community building for indoor events.
The market is open on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine. As a reminder, EBT and P-EBT cards are accepted forms of payment, and Double Up Food Bucks can be used to match purchases dollar-for-dollar. Those interested in volunteering are still encouraged to apply at this time.