Pandemic will Change the Grand Rapids Farmers' Market Permanently

May 8, 2020

Among other things, Jesse Davis is a farmer, a member of the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market, and Director of Member Services for the MN Farmers’ Market Assn. He spoke with KAXE/KBXE’s Maggie Montgomery and Katie Carter about the season opening of the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market on May 6 2020.

Jesse said that in the weeks leading to the opening, market members met and made decisions about how to deal with the challenges of Covid-19. Those changes include adding 5 additional handwashing stations, 6’ spacing for booths, tables in front of booths to establish safe distances for vendors, and a new online ordering system with curbside pickup for customers.

The online website was originally designed for institutional customers, but growers and makers in Grand Rapids have adapted it to the current pandemic. “We were looking into making the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market into an online food hub,” Jesse explained. “We were lucky to have that infrastructure already there.” Using the system, customers can now order ahead for Saturday pickup (no pickups on Wednesdays).

Jesse predicts the online system will survive the pandemic. “This is going to change the way our market runs permanently. I don’t think our market is going to go back to the way we were…I think pre-ordering and drive-through, and bringing our farmers into more of a digital connection with our community---I think that’s going to stay.”

The market just has a few vendors at this time of year. Nevertheless, early season shoppers will find local baked goods, canned goods, honey, maple syrup, and “ramps” (wild leeks). Soon there will be greens and bedding plants. As the season progresses there will be plenty of vendors, but Jesse wonders if some popular items might eventually become somewhat scarce due to higher sales with online ordering. “People can just click, click, click in their PJs and pay with their credit card.”

The Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays for most of the season, and opens at 9 a.m. when shorter days arrive in the fall. It’s located at the busy corner of Pokegama Avenue and Golf Course Road in Grand Rapids.

You can hear the full conversation with Jesse Davis below. It includes a check-in about his farm, Trout Lake Garlic, a Cinco de Mayo dinner idea (with ramps), and discussions about how much food the market will be able to provide, and the effect of the pandemic on restaurant workers. (Plus more!)

You can find the Grand Rapids Farmers’ Market on Facebook or at their website. Order curbside local food from the market at www.localline.ca/grand-rapids-farmers-market