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For community members, farmers and local vendors, farmers markets have been a place to connect, to purchase homegrown and handmade items, and to gather with others. Amidst the current pandemic, those farmers markets are open but with new plans to keep the community safe.

“One entrance point with a hand-washing station and hand sanitizer available. No cloth table coverings to facilitate more frequent cleaning. Vendors are wearing face masks. Additional table in front of product table to keep patrons and vendors separated,” said Cambridge Farmers Market president Chris Kiesz.

Cambridge opened their market for the season on May 9, and although they opened with restrictions and each vendor in attendance was masked, the event was successful and a promising start for the vital market, according to Kiesz.

“At its core, the farmers market is a way to connect people to agriculture and local food. We see ourselves as a resource to the community for these purposes,” Kiesz said. “Vendors vary by season, but there is a core group that will be attending virtually every week with fresh and local food and craft goods. It’s a great way to connect consumers with neighbors that provide outstanding products.”

Kiesz, who is also a vendor at the market, said each vendor is doing their part to be cautious during the pandemic, and his own company, Yellow Hutch Farm, is doing the same.

“Yellow Hutch Farm was established in 2017. We raise and sell pasture raised chicken, forest raised pork, and 100% grass-fed beef on our farm near Braham. We believe our practices are regenerative, and add to our soil health. Studies have shown that raising animals in a grass based, bio-mimicking fashion yields healthier animals, healthier soils, and healthier food,” Kiesz said. “We are offering drive-up service here on farm, increasing to-your-door deliveries to twice per week, as well as using the farmers market as a pick-up site for preorders.”

Like Cambridge, Isanti’s farmers market will soon open with changes, according to Parks, Recreation & Culture Manager Jenny Garvey.

“We will encourage shoppers to wear a mask, social distancing of 6 feet, and we will have hand-washing stations set up at the entrance and exit,” Garvey said. “Biggest thing is no on-site food consumption or food sampling is allowed at Farmers Markets, and to not have people congregate.”

The market manager will be on-site during the market to ensure both shoppers and vendors are adhering to the new precautions and keeping both vendors and customers safe, according to Garvey.

Isanti’s market will kick off May 29 and will offer a variety of items as in years passed, including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, salsa, flowers, treats, and arts and crafts, Garvey said.

Benefits of the farmers market, according to Garvey, include “local items sold, supporting the local businesses and being able to talk to the people that are providing these items.”

“I enjoy being able to interact with the customers, which will be challenging this year, as for the time being we need to limit our interactions and just have the customers shop more efficiently and not gather to talk/chat with each other,” Garvey said. “Another aspect I enjoy is that my office for the day is outside. Who can beat that? I’ll take it even if it’s raining.”

Braham’s farmers market will follow with an opening date of June 11, according to coordinator Jean Loerzel.

“Our farmers market is sponsored by the Braham Chamber of Commerce. Our cost for participating is very minimal. The chamber just wants to promote the farmers market as a viable and worthwhile community activity,” Loerzel said. “Our number varies; we’ve had from seven to one a week. We usually have the same vendors; some will pop in for a short amount of time to sell something at the end of the season — squash, pumpkins and corn.”

Noting a variety of produce, canned goods and woodworking items featured at the market in the past, Loerzel emphasized the focus is on local vendors.

It’s an “opportunity to build community, meet new and interesting people, share stories and experiences, support local vendors and their products,” Loerzel said. Among the benefits are “meeting all of the people, talking with old friends, and making new ones and the great community spirit it has.”

The Cambridge Farmers Market is located at 122 Buchanan St. N., Cambridge, and is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.cambridgefarmersmarket.com.

The Isanti Farmers Market is located at 400 W. Dual Blvd., Isanti and open Fridays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. May 29 through Sept. 25, with no market July 3. For more information follow Isanti Market on Facebook.

The Braham Farmers Market is located in Braham’s Freedom Park on Main Street South in Braham, Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. beginning June 11. For more information, contact Dan Loerzel at 651-285-3306.

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