How NYC’s open-air greenmarkets are dealing with the coronavirus outbreak

April 1, 2020

Photo by James and Karla Murray exclusively for 6sqft

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, grocery stores across New York City have adopted new policies to ensure the safety of both workers and customers. Similarly, the city’s 50 open-air farmers markets–also deemed essential by the state– are adapting to the health crisis, while continuing to serve fresh produce safely to New Yorkers who rely on them. And many shoppers are choosing to shop outside at GrowNYC farmer’s markets over the confined, indoor space of a store.


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We want to thank all of you for your patience and support during these times.⁠ ⁠ In an effort to maintain crowd control and promote social distancing at market, we are implementing some new measures. Besides the safety measures already in place, going forward:⁠ ⁠ ▪️We will be monitoring traffic into and out of the market space and customers may have to wait in line to enter to ensure the safety of everyone. ⁠ ⁠ ▪️All tents will be spaced at least 10 feet apart ⁠ ⁠ ▪️We are reconfiguring some markets to limit the number of customers shopping at any given time⁠ ⁠ ▪️We are adding additional demarcations to keep shoppers at least six feet apart⁠ ⁠ ▪️All markets will have additional GrowNYC staff on the ground to regulate customer flow and ensure social distancing ⁠ ⁠ We are making our food access sites safer and better each day. Head to the link in our bio for a map of currently open food access sites from us and some of our partners.⁠ ⁠ ?: @eater_ny

A post shared by GrowNYC (@grownyc) on Mar 25, 2020 at 11:25am PDT

According to GrowNYC, its 50 markets are crucial to the 250 regional farmers and producers who sell goods at them, as well as the thousands of New Yorkers who shop rely on them for fresh produce. Without shoppers, 85 percent of farms say they would not be able to stay in business.

Once a social, weekend activity, the farmer’s markets are now focusing on one goal: feeding New Yorkers. With nearly all of GrowNYC’s markets open, the group has implemented strict measures, including banning the public from touching items and sampling products.

“Please know that the safety of our customers, our staff, our farmers–and all New Yorkers–remains our number-one concern during this extremely difficult time. These are not just words,” Marcel Van Ooyen, the president of GrowNYC, wrote in a blog post.

“We have taken (and will continue to take) decisive action to create the safest places to access fresh produce. We have been ahead of the curve. Our current protocols are being used as a model for farmers markets across the nation,” Van Ooyen said.

Working with the city and state health departments, as well as other market operators, the markets have increased their footprint where possible, tents will be separated by at least ten feet. At markets where this is not an option, including the Union Square Greenmarket, the number of shoppers allowed in at a time will be limited. Boundaries will be set up to keep customers six feet apart, with extra staff helping regulate this.

Safety protocols taken by GrowNYC include: 

  • Customers cannot touch any produce until after they have purchased it.
  • No product sampling is allowed; apple cider will no longer be sold by the cup.
  • Producers must wear protective gloves.
  • All farm stands must use vinyl or plastic table covers for easy sanitizing and all producers must sanitize stand regularly.
  • Both GrowNYC staff and producers will stay home if sick.
  • Hand sanitizer will be provided at the market manager stations.

The markets also provide access to healthy food for the city’s most vulnerable populations. Each year, GrowNYC processes over $1 million in SNAP/ EBT and Health Bucks, along with $2 million in Farmers Market Nutrition vouchers, which helps low-income seniors.

A handful of greenmarkets have closed, some have changed its hours, and others have relocated. And food-scrap collections and clothing donations are canceled until further notice.

Some greenmarkets are offering alternative ways to purchase products, including pick up and delivery directly from the producer. Find businesses and alternative purchasing options here.


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