FRANKLIN, Ind. — One of summer’s best traditions is the bounty of farm-fresh flavors that come from Johnson County’s producers and growers.

Fresh sweet corn, juicy tomatoes and zesty peppers just seem to taste better knowing they came from the farmer down the road. Being able to meet the people who raise the crops and livestock, as well as make items using local products, forges a better connection with our own food system.

And the best place to do all of that is the farmers market.

After a short delay, the county’s farmers markets are starting up for the season. Adjustments have been made to increase safety and caution against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The markets may look a little bit different. Organizers want patrons to feel safe while shopping.

But they also want people to be able to support the family farms and small businesses that rely on the markets throughout the summer.

“Everyone is still very excited about the market, excited to participate. But they’re all doing it in a very respectful manner, asking what they need to do to follow all the guidelines,” said Jess Giles, executive director of Discover Downtown Franklin, which organizes the city’s farmers market. “So far, the atmosphere has been supportive and energetic.”

Farmers markets play a vital role in the local economy, according to research done by Purdue University. A report by Allan Pinto and Ariana Torres with Purdue Extension Horticulture Business found that farmers markets provide a venue for communities to socialize, revitalize downtown districts, and help educate people to make healthier food choices.

“By selling directly to consumers,” the report stated, “farmers are able to gain a higher share of the consumer’s dollar, improve their cash flow, and travel shorter distances (which reduces costs in transportation, handling, refrigeration, and storage).”

Indiana boasts nearly 200 farmers markets statewide. In Johnson County alone, residents can shop at markets in Greenwood, Franklin, Bargersville and Edinburgh. Last year, Whiteland added its own market. Throughout the summer, the weekly events brought out hundreds of people.

But the pandemic has changed how organizers have approached opening markets this year.

“It was a week-by-week sort of thing. We didn’t even know if we could have it,” said Sarabeth Drybread, community center director in Edinburgh. “Markets are deemed an essential business, so we want to use the resources that are out there to adapt to what we have here.”

This is the first summer in many years that Edinburgh has a farmers market. Getting a new event off the ground was already complicated, but doing so facing a pandemic was incredibly challenging, Drybread said.

Still, she believes the hard work will be worth it.

“We’ve been focused on a lot of downtown revitalization over the past couple of years, adding new festivals and events and activities downtown to bring people in,” Drybread said. “Markets are great to promote healthy eating and buying local, and that’s something we want to focus on right now.”

To prepare for the opening of the market, Drybread has been attending webinars on safely hosting farmers markets, as well as paying attention to updates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The market will have markings 6 feet apart to help people adhere to social distancing. Hand sanitizer will be prevalent. The first 30 minutes of the market have been reserved for seniors and others at high risk for COVID-19, Drybread said.

One of the biggest resources market organizers have leaned on has been Purdue Extension. The organization has put out guidelines and best practices for all of the state’s markets, in conjunction with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements.

Planners should set up their market following social distancing, with booths set far enough apart to keep people safe. Efforts such as creating hand sanitizer stations, renting portable hand-washing stations and discontinuing passing out samples unless the items are individually packaged, would decrease the risk of contamination.

Clear signage and communication must be present throughout the market. Purdue Extension also encouraged markets to look at alternative formats, such as online ordering or a drive-through market.

Franklin won’t open their farmers market until July 4. But customers are already able to go online and buy directly from market vendors.

“There is still a very high demand in this community of people who want to buy directly from farmers. Anywhere from the eggs to the produce to fresh-cut flowers, people want those things even if the farmers market isn’t going on,” Giles said. “We’re hearing positive things about that, just so they can continue on.”

Giles and other Franklin organizers have been listening to experts at Purdue Extension, Indiana Grown and the state government to determine how and when to open up. They have also paid attention as other markets throughout the state have been operating.

“We were watching them very closely to see how various strategies worked, in terms of efficiency, respect for both vendors and customers, comfort level, things like that,” Giles said.

Markets in Edinburgh and Bargersville are open now, as are other area markets such as Indianapolis, Broad Ripple and Columbus. Greenwood will start its market on June 20, with Franklin opening next month.

“We’re excited to see how it goes,” Drybread said.

AREA FARMERS MARKETS:

Bargersville Farmers Market:

When: 5 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays

Open: Now through July 29

Where: 24 N. Baldwin St., Bargersville

Information: BargersvilleMainStreet.com

Edinburgh Farmers Market:

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays

Open: Now through Oct. 1

Where: John R. Drybread Community Center, 100 E. Main Cross St., Edinburgh

Information: edinburgh.in.us

Greenwood Farmers Market:

When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays

Open: June 20 through Oct. 10

Where: 525 N. Madison Ave., Greenwood

Information: Greenwood Indiana Farmers Market on Facebook

Franklin Farmers Market:

When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays

Open: July 4 to Oct. 10

Where: Downtown Franklin, two blocks west of courthouse square

Information: discoverdowntownfranklin.com/franklinfarmersmarket

Original Farmers Market:

When: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays

Open: Now through the end of October

Where: Monument Circle, downtown Indianapolis

Information: indycm.com/farmers-market

Columbus Farmers Market:

When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays

Open: Now through Sept. 19

Where: 123 Washington St, Columbus

Information: columbusfarmersmarket.org

Garfield Park Farmers Market:

When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays

Open: Now through October

Where: Southeast corner of Garfield Park, near the corner of Shelby Street and East Southern Avenue, Indianapolis

Information: garfieldparkfarmersmarket.com

Broad Ripple Farmers Market:

When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays

Open: Now through Nov. 21

Where: Glendale Town Center, East Parking Lot, 6179 N. Rural St., Indianapolis

Information: broadrippleindy.org/farmers-ma

Source: Daily Journal