A visit to the Farmer’s Market is a Saturday morning ritual for some people. More than a place to buy tomatoes and garlic, the market serves as a community gathering hub. Friends catch up with each other. The kids get their faces painted. And a singer tries out their latest song on the crowd.

But now, community spaces and crowds are fraught with peril. A busy Saturday market, aisles crammed with people, isn’t safe. So local markets have had to adapt.

At the Durango Farmer’s Market, manager Melanie McKinney-Gonzalez says they’ve spread vendors six feet apart. Hand washing stations are available, and crowding is discouraged. The market’s requirement that vendors wear masks predates the city’s face covering mandate.

McKinney Gonzalez consulted with other farmers’ markets and sought guidance from Durango and San Juan Basin Public Health officials to reopen.

“We were in communication with both city staff and health department staff, probably from mid-March through our opening,” she says. “We are still continuing conversations with them about any changes we want to make.”

The coronavirus has reduced foot traffic and sales at farmer’s markets. That means less income for small farmers and producers. To help, some market vendors are going digital, turning to websites and social media to sell and deliver products.

McKinney-Gonzalez says the Durango Farmer’s Market encourages its vendors to use the internet to supplement the weekly market.

“My concern is not so much that commerce happens Saturdays between eight and noon,” she explains. “The focus of the market is to get our local citizens connected with our local agriculture.”

The website Southwest Producers also aims to help. It provides a directory of producers, community-supported agriculture farms, produce stands, and farmer’s markets. The idea is to connect Four Corners farmers and ranchers directly with consumers.

I’m reporting on the impact of the coronavirus in the Four Corners region for KSUT Public Radio. The stories and audio here were previously aired and published by KSUT. Stories are archived at Open Range News.

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