SELECTMEN NEWS: Board To Decide Whether To Allow Farmers Market To Return To Town Common Area During COVID-19

WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Board of Selectmen will decide at Monday night’s meeting whether or not to allow the Wilmington Farmers Market to continue use of the Swain Green for its summer market beginning on Sunday, June 14, 2020, and whether a special market can take place this Sunday, May 3, 2020, on the Swain Green, despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

The Market, which runs once a month in the winter/spring, was originally scheduled to be held at its winter home at the Wilmington United Methodist Church, but the church will be closed on May 3, 2020. As a result, organizers are looking to run the market at its summer home — the Swain Green, across from the Town Common.

“We will be limited our Market to food vendors only,” wrote Farmers Market Association President Dana Burnham in a letter to Selectmen. “We will not host any craft vendors, community groups, entertainment, or set up games or picnic tables for dining… We will encourage a ‘get in get out’ mentality with our customers, so as not to make the Market the usual social event.’

Burnham added that market organizers will be adding a hand-washing station rental to ensure that vendors and customers can maintain safe sanitation practices while at the Market.

Vendors will be required to enact safe social distancing practices for their respective tents, including:

  • Encouraging the use of contact-less payments as much as possible
  • Supplying disinfecting wipes at their tables
  • Utilizing disposable gloves while handling product and/or exchanging money
  • Placing an additional table in front of their sales table to ensure customers maintain a 6 foot safe space for the vendors
  • Not allowing customers to handle their product while shopping, in advance of purchase

Burnham noted that farmers markets are considered “essential businesses” under Governor Baker’s emergency order.

Selectmen were reluctant to grant the Farmers Market Association’s request at their April 13, 2020 meeting, and instead tabled a vote until their April 27, 2020 meeting, with a request from additional information from organizers.

“I want the Farmers Market to happen, but I want more information about the protocols they plan on following,” said Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony. “How are they going to be handling crowd control? Market Basket has a capacity limit and protocols on you get in and out. My ultimate question for Market organizers is how will they monitor the number of people there at one time?”

“We’re really going to have to police this,” agreed Selectman Mike McCoy. “What are you going to do if the Governor extends [the emergency order]? I think it is going to happen. I think we need to look at this another time. I wouldn’t want to give them a permit to open up while we’re telling other businesses that they can’t.”

“I hope the market can continue. There’s a lot of people whose livelihood is very much dependent on selling their products here,” said Selectman Jonathan Eaton. “I just want to make sure that if we’re allowing this to happen, that there are some crowd control measures in place. Market Basket, Lucci’s, and Elia’s are all open, but they’re limiting the number of people going in at one time.”

“I have concerns about this,” agreed Selectmen Chair Greg Bendel. “The Governor has indicated he hopes to reopen on May 4, but speaking for myself, I don’t see that happening. I would be hesitant to encourage residents to gather before that time.”

Bendel noted Selectmen recently postponed the Annual Town Meeting — scheduled for May 2, 2020, a day before the proposed May 3 market — due to safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.

“We’re all great supporters of the Farmers Market,” continued Bendel. “We’re just concerned for the residents’ and vendors’ well-being.”

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