Everett Farmers Market welcomes back walkers

Social distancing will be key to keeping pedestrians safe at city market.

EVERETT — People can once again walk up to their favorite vendors, including for flowers, at the Everett Farmers Market.

After starting as a drive-thru earlier this month, the weekly Sunday market went back to pedestrian strolls May 17.

But it still won’t be the free-flowing jaunt of past seasons.

“We are not an event; we are an essential market,” market co-owner and manager Karen Erickson said.

There are more rules than in previous years.

Customer crowds are limited to 125 people at a time. Preorders are encouraged. Visitors are asked to space themselves 6 feet apart and wear face masks.

You can’t eat the dim sum or pastries within the market’s area on Wetmore Avenue between Hewitt and Pacific avenues.

Despite the open-air nature of it being in downtown Everett, there are only two entrances on Hewitt and Pacific. No pets are allowed, except service animals.

The first 30 minutes at 10:30 a.m. are for people who are at high risk from COVID-19.

“The big thing is social distancing,” Erickson said.

Every farmers market in the state is figuring out how to adhere to the new guidance and rules in place because of the new coronavirus that has made thousands sick and at least killed 134 in Snohomish County so far. Some became drive-thrus, others preorders only. All of them have to limit the crowd size.

“We really want to do our part by abiding by the guidance and restrictions,” said Colleen Donovan, Washington State Farmers Market Association executive director, earlier this month. “Everything we do is for public safety.”

To operate, the Everett Farmers Market must adhere to guidelines issued by the state and the Snohomish Health District. Part of that includes weekly reports to the health district about crowd size, plans for crowd management, and placement and spacing of vendors.

During the first week, Everett Farmers Market had about 125 customers drive through. When the market shifted to walk-up service last week, about 700 people came. Even that dramatic jump is a far cry from the usual peak of around 5,000.

Usually there are 100 vendors. When it first opened earlier this month, there were 20. This past week, 40 vendors set up. The two-block stretch of road can accommodate maybe another 10 vendor booths, Erickson said.

“We don’t have room right now for everybody,” she said.

Unless a dramatic change happens, the Wednesday Everett Farmers Market set to start in June isn’t happening until next year.

“It looks like we’re going to reschedule for 2021,” Erickson said.

There was doubt at the start of the season about flower farmers’ inclusion in the agriculture industry, which was deemed essential by the state. Later, the state Department of Agriculture and Gov. Jay Inslee’s office clarified that flower farmers can operate and sell, including at farmers markets.

This past Sunday, Erickson said three flower vendors sold bouquets. They’re lined up for the rest of the year as well.

The SNAP match program is still available, but the Everett market swapped out the wooden tokens for paper vouchers this season to limit the chance of spreading the disease. The market had more matching money available for this month, so using SNAP benefits there could stretch beyond a 1:1 ratio, Erickson said.

Another benefit for seniors in need is available through Homage of Snohomish County. The deadline for the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition program, up to $40, is Tuesday. Applications can be downloaded online or requested by calling 425-388-7393.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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