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With Farmers 'Deeply Invested In Social Distancing,' Market Season Begins Haltingly In Metro Kansas City

Vegetable and flower grower Jackie Palmer, of Jackie and the Beanstalk, with a customer at the Brookside Farmers Market.
Brookside Farmers Market
Vegetable and flower grower Jackie Palmer, of Jackie and the Beanstalk, with a customer at the Brookside Farmers Market.

Here's the latest on which farmers markets are open and which ones are postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Kansas City’s growing season gets underway and people crave fresh produce, area farmers’ markets are gearing up to serve that demand while trying to stay safe amid a pandemic.

After some controversy over its initial cancellation, Overland Park’s popular farmers’ market opens Saturday, as does Parkville's. The City Market in downtown Kansas City and the Brookside Farmers market, meanwhile, have already been operating. Other metro area sites plan to open soon, but other openings are postponed.

“The farmers are going to be deeply invested in maintaining social distancing,” said Katherine Kelly, executive director of Cultivate KC, which advocates for farmers and local sustainable food in Kansas City.

“I think they are going to be good, safe places, and the number of hands that touch the produce by the time it gets to market is very few.”

Concerns about the virus will probably keep crowds down anyway, Kelly predicted. She has spoken to many of the metro’s market managers and said they are “taking very seriously their responsibility to their customers. They are working with the farmers to address that they are using good food safety practices.”

Here's the current status of area markets:

Overland Park Farmers’ Market
6000 College Boulevard, Overland Park

The Market has moved from its traditional downtown property to a new drive-thru location in the large parking lot north of the Convention Center. Plans are to be open from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 25, and remain there at least through May 9.

“We were looking for a way to bring what is an essential food provider to the community while maintaining social distancing and making it as safe as possible,” said Meg Ralph, a spokeswoman for Overland Park. “Staff have been getting really creative about how to make it work and have been working a lot on the layout.”

Shoppers will follow a one-way path through the parking lot. To minimize risk from the COVID-19 virus to both vendors and customers, Ralph said the city is counting on people to remain in their cars.

The market expects at least 30 vendors. Shoppers are encouraged to pre-order using a vendor list on the farmers’ market website.

Brookside Farmers’ Market
6425 Wornall Rd., Kansas City, Missouri

The Brookside Market operated a winter season indoors through March 21 and re-opened in its outdoor location April 4. It's open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Market Manager Kyra Gross said she got good advice on safe operations from the National Farmers Market Coalition, and people have been behaving responsibly.

“Attendance is definitely down,” she said. On a normal Saturday in April, the market might see 800-900 people, but that’s now down to about 250 to 300 customers.

The number of vendors is also down from about 30 normally to about 15 currently. Most vendors have websites that allow customers to pre-order.

The available produce is wonderful, Gross said, including “tons of salad greens, chives, scallions, green garlic, and radishes.” They also have tulips, meat and eggs.

City Market
5th and Walnut, Kansas City, Missouri

A sign enforces social distancing at the City Market in downtown Kansas City.
City Market
A sign enforces social distancing at the City Market in downtown Kansas City.

Specialty grocers are open throughout the week at the City Market, and many restaurants are doing creative things to keep their staffs employed, said Sue Patterson, City Market director of marketing and events.

The Farmers’ Market currently runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, but the hours should expand to 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. sometime in May, Patterson said. She anticipates a Sunday market will be added when the growing season is abundant enough and there are sufficient vendors.

Signage is posted to help maintain social distancing and vendors are spaced apart.

“Crowds are down but people are coming,” Patterson said. “I think people really prefer it to a big box supermarket.”

Parkville Farmers Market
English Landing Park, Parkville, Missouri

The market in downtown Parkville opens Saturday, April 25, and is open from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

Liberty Farmers Market
117B North Main, Liberty, Missouri

The market in Liberty’s historic downtown square is set to open on May 2 and will operate Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon, but with spacing of vendors along with many social distancing requirements and other rules.

Merriam Farmers Market
Merriam Marketplace, 5740 Merriam Drive, Merriam, Kansas

Merriam has postponed its opening date from May 2 to May 23. It will operate Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the first hour reserved for at-risk shoppers. Vendors will be spread out and visitors will shop from the market’s outer edge.

Bonner Springs Farmers' Market
Kelly Murphy Park, 129 Elm St., Bonner Springs, Kansas

Opening Saturday, June 6, from 8 a.m. to noon, with social distancing.

Mission Market
5635 Johnson Drive, Mission, Kansas

Mission’s market normally opens in June and that is currently the hope, according to Emily Randel, assistant to the city administrator.

“We’re a little later than most,” Randel said, adding that the city is still evaluating the situation and will put safety first. “If we could, we would love to find a way to support the vendors,” she said.

Lenexa Farmers Market
17201 W. 87th St. Pkwy., Lenexa, Kansas

The market in Lenexa City Center had been scheduled to open April 25 but has been postponed indefinitely, according to city spokeswoman Denise Rendina. The city wants to open the market but is still exploring its options and nothing has been decided, she said. However, a list of farmers and vendors offering curbside, delivery or pickup options is available at Lenexa.com/farmersmarket.

Olathe Farmers' Market

Olathe’s farmers market opening date is postponed indefinitely, with the city awaiting more guidance from Johnson County and the state of Kansas.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance writer in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @LynnHorsley.
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