As Lake Tahoe slowly reopens, people are itching to venture outside for some fresh air and healthy doses of sunshine paired with social distancing.
Deemed “essential services” in some regions, farmers markets in the Sierra have been allowed to provide shopping opportunities for those who are either afraid to go into a brick and mortar store or can’t find what they need as bigger supply chains continue to be disrupted.
However, since people tend to congregate and hang out at farmers markets, they can also pose some risk for potentially spreading COVID-19. Therefore, here is what South Shore and North Shore farmers markets are doing to keep the Tahoe community safe.
South Lake Tahoe farmers’ market kicks off Tuesday
As part of the El Dorado County Certified Farmers’ Market, one is held at the American Legion parking lot at 2732 South Lake Tahoe Boulevard on Tuesdays from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. The first one of the season is keeping with its planned opening date of June 2, even though others have been pushed back.
“We have not been delayed for starting the Tahoe one, we got the okay from the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Public Health to launch June 2,” says Lois Coalwell, the “paperwork person” and wife of El Dorado Farmers Market Manager Jim Coalwell.
However, there will be some new safety protocols in place to be able to continue the event.
“The only people who are allowed to be there for the entire event are the farmers, people who are selling pre-packaged foods, and those who are selling essential items like Tahoe Mountain Soaps,” Lois said.
She further explains that there will be zero sampling and all farmers will wear masks provided by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, although she is concerned that there won’t be enough masks to make it through the entire season.
Each vendor will have a handwashing station at their site and there will basically be two people at each tent — the farmer and one collecting the money, both who will be fully masked and gloved.
So far, there are 13 farmers signed up to be at the South Lake Tahoe market, 13 vendors selling pre-packaged food, three alternative agriculture vendors (like an olive oil vendor, for example), and one essential item producer (Tahoe Mountain Soaps). This same farmers’ market started off last season with 52 vendors, about double of this year’s producers. Lois expects around a 25% drop in income this season. However, she says that most vendors have been adaptable and eager to provide essential items to South Lake Tahoe residents.
“Ninety-nine percent of farmers want to do what they can to ease the concerns and support the community, and we’re doing all we can to provide this service,” she said.
To comply with the new COVID-19 rules, El Dorado County Certified Farmers’ Markets are asking people to practice social distancing and abide by the signs that ask people to “shop with their eyes” and not handle produce as much as they may have done in the past.
“It’s a learning curve and we’re talking to farmers on a regular basis,” Lois said.
For instance, she explains that in the beginning of the application process of being able to host the markets under the new coronavirus umbrella, the state told the organizers that vendors had to keep their tents six feet apart from each other which not only takes up unnecessary space, but it wouldn’t keep people from walking between the tents thus negating social distancing rules. When brought to the officials’ attention, the state health entities agreed to allow a one-foot distance between each vendor with barriers/tables blocking people from going between them. Lois said that way a sneeze will not leave the tent.
“It’s a severe time and we hope there will not be anything that affects the farmers market or causes this to be shut down,” Lois said. “But we’re doing everything we can to make it as safe as possible. In our 28 years of running farmers markets we’ve never seen anything like this.”
For more information about the El Dorado County Certified Farmers’ Markets, visit https://eldoradofarmersmarket.com/.
Tahoe City Farmers Market happening now
The Tahoe City Farmers Market held at Commons Beach on Thursdays from 8 a.m. -1 p.m. began on May 14 and runs through Oct. 8.
To comply with the new public health standards, Tahoe City Farmers Market organizers are asking visitors to keep these recommendations in mind while shopping:
– Cover your face. All visitors are encouraged to wear face masks while browsing through the farmers market.
-Keep six feet apart. Practice proper social distancing by staying a safe distance from strangers, following the posted signs, and waiting your turn to shop.
– Come alone. Limit shopping experiences to one person per household and go with intention- organizers ask that you keep your farmers market visit to a half-hour or less.
– Don’t stay and eat. All food purchases must be ordered to be taken away and enjoyed at home.
Some of the vendors that participate in the Tahoe City Farmers Market include: Bravo Produce, Little Roots Farm, the Sugar Pine Cakery, Twin Peaks Orchards, McClaughry Farms Honey, Raffine Chocolate, Dietricks Cheese, Il Gusto Spoon, Tahoe Mountain Soaps, and more.
The closest places to park are at 64 Acres, the visitors center, behind Blue Agave, the Tahoe City Golf Course, and Upper Commons Beach.
For more information, visit the website.