Preparations are underway for the 2021 New Hope Farmers Market season, and the market board is making plans for two possible realities. The first would look exactly last year, with social distancing guidelines, floor markers to direct traffic, and plexiglass installed in front of stands. The second approach is a little looser. Board Chair Kristine Frey said some level of COVID-19 safety protocols will likely stay in place.

“We continue to follow the MN Farmers Market association guidance and the guidance of the governor,” said Frey. “We would like to bring back some additional features to the market but want to ensure that our vendors and shoppers stay safe and healthy.”

Farmers markets were on the list of “essential businesses” when Gov. Tim Walz issued his first COVID-19 stay-at-home order last year. Like a grocery store, markets provide fresh food, but also stimulate the economy through small, local growers and artisans.

Vaccination progress may be an indicator of the guidance given for markets. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, essential workers, teachers, high-risk individuals and those over 50 are slated to receive COVID-19 vaccinations by late spring. Vaccination is expected to expand to anyone in the general public in the summer.

Because of the uncertainty, Frey is unsure whether the board will be able to book music and other entertainment. For now, she said the protocols for the market are an “evolving topic.”

The market will open June 19 and have its final weekend Sept. 25. Vendor applications are steadily coming in, reported Frey.

Last season’s greatest success was its flexibility.

“We were able to have a successful market, support Empty Bowls for the last four to five weeks, worked with some crafters from the canceled Cooper Craft fair and, on the fly, were able to deliver artist and crafter days for the last three weeks of the 2020 season,” said Frey.

She said many of the Cooper crafters have expressed interest in returning in some form to the market in 2021.

Frey said there are “exciting things to come,” and updates can be found on the market’s Facebook page.

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