Local Farmer's Markets Fight to Stay Open During Shelter in Place Order

Farmers say open-air markets offer safer option than regular grocery stores

Daniel Cunningham

Casey Cutler, executive director of Good Local Markets, which operates White Rock Farmers Market and Lakewood Village Farmers Market, felt a call to action when counties across the state started issuing shelter in place orders.

Considered an event or community gathering, farmers' markets normally operate with permits from the Dallas Office of Special Events. According to the first set of the city’s guidelines, farmers' markets would have been shuttered in the response to reduce the spread of COVID-19, limiting groups of more than 10 people. 

Believing that farmers' markets are vital to local food systems by providing fresh healthy produce, in addition to supporting local North Texas farmers in need, Cutler pleaded her case to local and state officials. 

“I wrote letters to our council representatives, the assistant city manager, and the judges office explaining the importance of farmers' markets and how we needed to be considered 'open-air grocery,'" said Cutler.

Cutler also reached out to the Texas Department of Agriculture via their website and was surprised to get a response from Deputy Commissioner Jason Fearneyhough who agreed that farmers' markets were essential. But after receiving a phone call from the Texas Agricultural Commissioner, Sid Miller, she felt she was gaining some ground. 

“From what I can tell, he gave both the judge and the mayor a call and now we are listed as an essential business,” said Cutler.

Farmers' markets in Dallas County have now been listed as "grocery exempt" or an "essential business" in the Dallas County judge’s order and both Good Local Markets were issued new permits by the Office of Special Events to continue operation under coronavirus mitigation plan. Cutler’s markets also provide for SNAP customers, giving many equal access to fresh local food.

Farmers Markets Adjust to Adhere to Community Gathering COVID-19 Guidelines

In addition to spacing booths farther apart and limiting their vendors to those that only sell essential food items and/or farm produce, the Good Local farmers' markets have limited each market to only allow 50 people in at a time. Hand-washing stations anchor the only entrance, each vendor is required to have a hand sanitizer at their booth and must wash their hands after each customer interaction. 

“Good Local Markets takes public health seriously, so we are working very hard to ensure that we have a safe atmosphere at our markets,” said Cutler.

Open air markets maintain fresh air ventilation, as opposed to traditional grocery stores with confined spaces using recycled air systems.

“Outdoor spaces with airflow and natural UV spectrum light are less hospitable to viruses,” said Cutler. “Most of our items are harvested and packed by only a few people within 150 miles or less.”

There are also strict customer guidelines at good local markets to ensure safety:

  • Limit your time at market to only grab what you need, no socializing. This is in order to maintain our 50 person rule.  
  • Do not come to the market if you are sick. If you are coughing and sneezing due to ALLERGIES, please do so in your sleeve or a tissue, not in the open air 
  • Wash your hands periodically through your visit at the market or bring your own hand sanitizer. We will have two handwashing stations available at market.  
  • Do not touch food items if you are not buying them. Shop with your eyes first.  
  • Follow the CDC guidelines for handwashing and social distancing practices 
  • Maintain a 6 foot distance from other shoppers

 Both Good Local Markets are open this weekend:
*Market hours have been amended to 9-12 in order to minimize time at market and to better maintain frequent disinfecting and cleanliness.

White Rock Farmers Market
Open Saturday
9150 Garland Road
Dallas Texas 75218

Lakewood Village Farmers Market
Open Sunday
6434 E Mockingbird (@ Abrams )
Dallas, TX 75214

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