After a pre-season full of uncertainty and adjustment, welcome seeds of normalcy are sprouting at the Provincetown and Truro farmers markets, though at both, new restrictions and guidelines have reconfigured what the markets look like and how they work.
The market in Provincetown, which opened on Saturday, June 13, has a new name this year, too. It’s officially the Provincetown Educational Farmers Market, a counterpart to Truro’s, with both now managed by the nonprofit Sustainable CAPE. The market in Truro opened Monday, and for this year, at least, has a new location: the Truro Central School.
In both towns, new guidelines are meant to keep vendors and shoppers safe, explained Hannah Oakland, who manages Truro’s market. That’s why “we won’t have any live music this year, at least not yet, and we won’t be able to hold as many kids’ events,” she said. Per state guidelines, visitors must wear masks at the market, so there will be no ready-to-eat unpackaged food like coffee or pastries — everything will be sold to go. Both markets have also invested in new signage and hand-washing stations.
A nationwide interest in reopening farmers markets has meant an impressive rallying of market coalitions, strengthening ties between our own local markets and those across the state, according to Oakland. “We’ve been on weekly calls with the commissioner of agriculture,” she said. “Everyone’s been making these decisions together.”
Provincetown’s market got off to a cautious start, initially limiting shopping to online pre-orders only, via Sustainable CAPE’s freshly launched website, shoplocalfood.org. That allows produce to be packed up and ready to go before customers enter the setup of stalls and booths on the town hall lawn. Shoppers need only to find their vendors and collect their ready bundles.
The pre-order only and strict one-way rules were loosened this week by Provincetown market manager Jess Drake Cook. While shoppers are still encouraged to order ahead, browsing is now permitted.
“Having one market under our belt, I felt confident about opening it up more,” Cook said. “A queue at the entrance, limiting the number of people in at one time, and keeping the vendor booths a certain distance apart from one another” are added precautions, she said.
The market is as much about community as it is about the food, Cook said. Even though state-imposed restrictions on the numbers of people gathered will reduce in-person time with vendors, “when you come to pick up your stuff, you still see the vendor you buy from. We’re still connecting with each other,” she said.
Truro’s market is also set up as a hybrid market; as in Provincetown, pre-ordering online at shoplocalfood.org streamlines things, but in-person browsing is allowed. This is largely thanks to the market’s move onto the school property, a preventive measure against the foot traffic and crowds that built up in the center of town at the market’s usual location.
One of the big concerns about the markets’ plunge into online ordering was finding a way to continue the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. SNAP card pin numbers cannot be used online.
But the website has a new feature that Sustainable CAPE Executive Director Francie Randolph says solves that problem. Shoppers who select SNAP as a method of payment on the site will be able to finalize their purchases in person when they collect their goods on market day.
Cook says she is relieved about the fix. “We wouldn’t have gone forward with the pre-order system if it wasn’t going to work for everyone,” she said.
The online system has so far been successful enough that market managers are considering its continuation in a post-Covid reality. “Our biggest concern was straying too far from the original farmers market,” said Oakland. But if it turns out that going online bolsters market access for even more people, it might be here to stay.
Pre-ordering online for the Provincetown Farmers Market is available from Wednesdays at 5 a.m. to Thursdays at 5 p.m., with pickup during market hours, Saturdays from 9 to 11 a.m. in front of town hall.
Pre-ordering online for the Truro Farmers Market is available from Fridays at 5 a.m. to Saturdays at 5 p.m., with pickup during market hours, Monday from 8 a.m. to noon at Truro Central School.