Home News Local News State says farmers’ markets have green light to open

State says farmers’ markets have green light to open

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Lisa Dunlap File Photo New Mexico’s farmers’ markets are considered essential businesses by state order. Roswell’s, pictured here from 2018, is due to start July 11.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

[Note: This post has been updated to correct the title for a representative of the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association.]

It seems a long way from now during a time of uncertainty, but organizers of the local Farmers’ Market are already making plans for this year.

But it could be a different type of operation this year depending on what happens with coronavirus concerns.

The market is due to open July 11, the weekend after the UFO Festival, according to chief organizer Peggy Seskey.

At this time, she expects the Saturday morning markets to run from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for at least 13 weeks and to be located once again at the Chaves County Courthouse on downtown Main Street.

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The state has declared that farmers’ markets are essential businesses, just as other agricultural and food supply businesses are, said Denise Miller, executive director of the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association.

That decision will allow the estimated 75 farmers’ markets in the state to continue as they have been throughout the coronavirus crisis in some cities or to restart for the selling season, as in the case of Roswell’s market, which is coordinated by MainStreet Roswell.

Miller said that farmers’ markets can offer some additional advantages over grocery shopping.

“Not only is it food that is locally grown, which is helping farmers who need to keep their crops in production, but actually farmers’ markets tend to be outdoors, where there is plenty of fresh air circulating,” she said. “The supply chain is also shorter, so there are fewer people touching food. So likely it is even a safer place to buy food.”

She and Seskey also said that the markets offer the “Double Up Food Bucks” program, seen as an important way to help low-income residents stretch their food dollars. The program, run in part by the New Mexico Human Services Department, allows people who receive federal food assistance benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) to double the value of their benefits. If consumers want to use $10 of the federal benefits, for example, they are able to receive $20 worth of tokens to buy fresh food and produce at farmers’ markets.

“That is particularly important in this environment, where people’s budgets have really been hit hard,” Miller said.

She said that it appears at this point that many markets in the state will continue to operate this year.

“Some of them are starting up with a different format, with a drive-through or pick-up type of service,” she said.

Miller explained that most markets operate under the regulations of the city in which they function. For some areas, the enforcers of regulations are the New Mexico Environment Department. In other areas, it could be city code enforcement, the fire department or emergency management officials.

The New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association also has created a list of suggested health guidelines for markets and vendors.

The current guidelines include recommendations for social distancing and safe ways of handling products and exchanging goods. As importantly, it is instructing markets at this time to offer only food and “food start plants,” not crafts, arts, entertainment or booths for community organizations.

“It really is a food market right now, where people are encouraged to come in, shop, get what they need and go home,” she said. “But by July that could be relaxed.”

Seskey and Kathy Lay, executive director of MainStreet Roswell, agree that giving people access to farm- or garden-fresh food and produce is valuable for local shoppers.

Seskey said the market should run until early October, but could be extended if the growing season runs later as it did last year.

While Lay said that participation could be lower due to coronavirus concerns, Seskey said she is making calls and hearing some indications that people required to stay home will start gardens or turn to raising crops and making homemade food. She also is hoping at this time that non-food booths will be allowed.

“My gut feeling is it (participation) will be good,” she said. “There are a lot of people planting gardens right now … even some people who hadn’t planned on gardens this year.”

She encourages people to consider growing and consider signing up for a booth on a weekly or monthly basis.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

 

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.