Following an executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper ordering the shutdown of many small businesses, the Carrboro Farmers' Market continues to give local farmers, bakers, craftsmen and more a place to sell their products despite the uncertain future.
Farmers' markets fall under the same classification as grocery stores and are considered to be an essential food source for local communities, according to a press release from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This means local and state farmers' markets are allowed to remain open.
The Carrboro Farmers' Market wants to facilitate local commerce and provide locally-sourced groceries for as long as possible. Vendors and customers alike are encouraged to participate while employing the appropriate safety precautions.
Abraham Palmer, manager and baker for Box Turtle Bakery, is one of the market's vendors. He said 80 percent of his sales come from the market.
“I feel like I’m resilient in a lot of ways because, from an ingredient perspective, I buy in bulk on a six-month or annual basis,” he said. “But obviously it’s just a one-person operation, so if anybody’s coming down with symptoms in the household, (my) whole operation has to be shut down.”
Palmer said he’s grateful the market is trying to stay open and that it is educating people about the situation. He said he thinks a lot of places aren’t fully acknowledging the problems that the coronavirus poses or aren't handling those problems appropriately.
“There’s a lot of grocery stores and pharmacies that are operating worse than the farmers' market at this point because we try to make an effort to separate things out more widely and educate people,” he explained.
The Graham Family Farm has been bringing produce and other products to the market since 1983. Louis Graham is carrying out this family tradition and now sells meat, produce and a variety of woodwork at the Saturday market, but said he's noticed a change recently.
“We do see fewer customers at the farmers' market,” he said. “I think the stock market crashes and people feeling uncertain about the future has definitely affected the woodworking end. When produce starts coming in, we’ll see if that continues.”
Like many others, he said he hopes this passes sooner rather than later but believes that when it’s all done, people will realize the value of local products. He also said he hopes the pandemic and social distancing will help remind people that cooking at home can be enjoyable.
For some vendors, particularly those outside of the food industry, the pandemic is too dire to continue participation in the Market at this time.
Carol Blackmore of Crow Hill Rugs has been selling handwoven rugs for 30 years. She designs custom rugs for market shoppers and usually sells at the Saturday market. But she said she decided to pull out of the market on March 13 due to coronavirus concerns.
“In addition to selling my rugs at market, I have two elderly private clients,” she said. “Even though the market was doing a very good job of establishing guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus, I didn’t want to add to the possibility that I might carry the virus to my clients.”
Blackmore also said she pulled out because her product is not an essential food item. She said that by not going, it is easier for the market to maintain distance between farmers, or may allow another food vendor to take her place instead.
Blackmore said the virus is affecting her business significantly. As the situation has worsened, she has stopped working with her elderly clients, which has cut her income in half.
“Yesterday, I found out that several of my material suppliers have had to shut down,” she said. “I will not be able to get the rug warp that I need in order to move forward with the inventory.”
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