MONROE, CT — Socializing with friends on the green, while eating a slice of pizza and listening to live music will not be part of this year’s Monroe Farmers’ Market, but the season will still feature shopping for fresh produce and specialty products.
In response to health restrictions for the coronavirus, the farmers’ market has gone curbside. Vendors will prepare online orders for weekly pickups on Fireman’s Field, starting on opening day this Friday.
“We realize it’s going to be different, but for us the end goal is the same and that is to be able to provide customers access to locally grown food and locally made speciality items — and to do that on a weekly basis consistently,” Keith Ciociola, the market manager, said Tuesday.
Though there was an option to have the market on the Monroe Green, Ciociola said it had its share of drawbacks.
Patrons waiting in long lines would have had to stand six feet apart, everyone would walk in the same direction as they do in supermarkets, and customers could not eat on the green or touch produce before buying it.
Police were concerned that the slower moving lines would back up traffic in the parking lot. Ciociola added there would also be an issue of making sure everyone wore a mask.
But the decision to have a curbside pickup on Fireman’s Field this year was not made lightly.
In a blog post, Ciociola said, since early March, he and other volunteers sat in on dozens of hours of phone calls and webinars with other market managers, the CDC, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, extension offices and farmers’ market coalitions.
“We have weighed several options for how The Monroe Farmers’ Market could continue to serve the community and support its farmers and local producers,” Ciociola wrote. “We believe that we have selected the best mode of operation for our market and everyone it serves.”
How it works
The Monroe Farmers’ Market will open with 16 vendors, but by the time the season is over its patrons will have had the opportunity to buy products from over 20 vendors. The season runs from this Friday to Oct. 23.
The market is held every Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. Online ordering for each week will begin at noon on Monday. Ciociola said vendors will have their own deadlines for placing orders, so they can fill them all in time for the week’s market.
“All of the expected faces are returning, which is good,” he said of the vendors, “so they’ll be able to get bread, pesto and mozzarella. They will be able to get fruits and vegetables from three different farms and specialty food items like hummus and pickles, granola, microgreens and guacamole.”
This year, Ciociola said a knife sharpener is participating in the market, adding people doing more cooking at home can have the best tools for the job.
Each week, patrons choose a pickup time from a list of available slots. Then they shop online, paying each vendor individually and directly on a single checkout page.
Try not to arrive early, because your order may not be ready yet, according to Ciociola, who said orders will still be there for those arriving late.
Drivers will enter the market by turning onto Fireman’s Field from Moose Hill Road, then will follow marked lanes and signs.
After pulling up to the staging area, give an attendant your name and phone number and your order will be placed in your trunk for you.
If your order is not ready, you will be asked to park in a customer waiting area, according to the Monroe Farmers’ Market website, drivers are asked to remain in their vehicles, while waiting for their orders to be delivered. All drivers will exit the market via Shelton Road (Route 110).
A temporary solution
While volunteers are looking forward to a return to the Monroe Green, Ciociola said it will operate curbside pickups on Fireman’s Field for this entire season, regardless of whether social distancing restrictions are relaxed, because it would be difficult to change it during the year.
“We absolutely want to be back on the green for so many reasons,” he said of future seasons. “The green, for us, provides an ideal setting for the market. Vendors and customers love it and its picturesque, small town feel with shade, breezes and nice grass. We’re so fortunate. So many vendors tell us they love our location, because so many farmers markets are held in a parking lot in the summer.”
Ciociola said both the Monroe Green and Fireman’s Field offer enough room for the market, but the field does not have access to electricity and bathroom facilities. There also is no shade from the hot summer sun and Fireman’s Field hosts other event’s like the annual Fireman’s Carnival, so the market would be disrupted.
However, Fireman’s Field is serving its purpose this year, at a time when volunteers were determined not to allow the global pandemic to cancel Monroe’s season.
“For us it was very important in our minds,” Ciociola said. “It was never really a question of whether we would have a market, it was how we would make it happen.
To keep up with the latest news and information on the Monroe Farmers’ Market, place an order or make a donations, visit its website, where you can sign up for its newsletter. Follow the market on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and sign up for its text messaging service to be alerted when the online store opens for new orders each week. Questions can be emailed to [email protected].