This letter focuses on farmers’ markets because that is where there has been some controversy, with some local governments shutting down markets. We have not heard of any local or state government shutting down individual farmers from selling their food to customers. If that has happened to you, please let us know!
Below is a sample letter that you can tailor for two purposes:
1) Send it to your vendors and market customers, asking for their help in contacting the local government and urging officials to keep the market open
2) Take out the italicized paragraph, make some edits, and send it to the local health department, city council, and county commissioners.
If you need assistance editing this letter or with other materials to help keep your market open, please email Judith@FarmAndRanchFreedom.org
Subject: We Must Act Now to Keep Our Local Farmers Markets Open
During this difficult time, people need access to healthy food. As state and local governments seek to enforce “social distancing” to slow the spread of the disease in the US, grocery stores are on the list of “essential” businesses that should remain open. And farmers markets should be, too.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recognizes “food and agriculture” as essential to continued critical infrastructure viability. DHS’ list[i] of essential critical infrastructure workforce specifically includes:
- Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retail that sells food and beverage products;
- Food manufacturer employees and their supplier employees, including livestock processing plants;
- Farm workers, including those employed in animal food, feed, and ingredient production, packaging, and distribution; truck delivery and transport; farm and fishery labor needed to produce our food supply domestically;
- Farm workers and support service workers, including both field crops and animal agricultural workers;
- Employees and firms supporting food, feed, and beverage distribution.
Our farmers and local food producers need to be allowed to continue providing critical services. And farmers’ markets are an essential element of getting the food from the farms to the consumers who need it.
Some local governments have closed farmers markets on the grounds that they are “events” like concerts. But farmers markets are not “events” — they are food sales venues that are vital to healthy food access for tens of thousands of consumers, and to the livelihoods of thousands of farmers across the country.
Multiple officials have addressed this at a state level and categorized farmers’ markets with grocery stores, finding that they are essential services and can continue functioning: California,[ii] Connecticut,[iii] Georgia,[iv] Kentucky,[v] Maryland,[vi] Pennsylvania[vii], and Wisconsin.[viii]
With proper sanitation and spacing, farmers markets pose no greater risk for spreading COVID-19 than grocery stores. Several states, including Texas, [ix] have issued helpful guidelines for farmers’ markets, such as spacing booths a greater distance apart, not allowing sampling, and providing handwashing and sanitizer stations.
We are all in this together. Our community must demand that local authorities allow (insert farmers market names) to stay open and we need to open up a dialog with the local authorities NOW, to prevent market disruptions in the future.
The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance’s website has resources, including links for guidance on social distancing and sanitation practices that can be implemented at markets to maintain public health.
Providing people with fresh, healthy foods is part of the solution to the current pandemic crisis, and local farmers and food producers have a vital role to play. We can work together to keep our markets operating and supplying fresh healthy food to our community.
[i] U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response (March 19, 2020), at page 6, https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/CISA-Guidance-on-Essential-Critical-Infrastructure-Workers-1-20-508c.pdf