<span>Farmers Market taking precautions to help keep customers safe</span>

London Laurel County Farmers Market photo

The London Laurel County Farmers Market begins at 8 a.m. Saturdays.

With the CDC recommending social distancing, now is as good a time as ever to visit the London-Laurel Farmers Market and avoid the crowds at big stores.

"You go to Walmart, you don't know how many people have picked up that one tomato or that bunch of green onions and put it back," said Bonnie Sigmon, Laurel County Extension Office agent for horticulture. "What's always a plus is that other shoppers have not handled the produce at the Farmer's Market for a week before you get your hands on it."

According to Sigmon, sales are currently on par with how they've generally been this time of year. However, she notes that sales have been up for fresh, frozen meat and gardening plants. The interest in gardening, says Sigmon, is likely linked to the pandemic, with families looking to grow and preserve their own food.

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected the Farmers Market in other ways. Sigmon asks to show patience, as the situation is ever-changing.

"We're going to keep at least one vendor space between each vendor, so each vendor space is at least 10 feet apart. We're going to be asking that there be only one customer per vendor at a time," she said.

Once the market begins to sell ready-to-eat produce such as tomatoes and beets, vendors will be required to wear gloves, and new gloves are put on after handling cash. Masks currently aren't required, but that may change, given the situation. Hand sanitizer will be available to use for shoppers and vendors.

Another benefit of shopping at the Farmers Market, especially during the pandemic, is that the money stays within Laurel County. Sigmon estimates that around 80 cents of every dollar are spent back into the local economy. Plus, the food is being bought directly from the source, with the farmers selling the same produce that feeds their families.

July 1, those eligible for WIC Benefits can pick up vouchers at the Laurel County Health Department for goods at the Farmers Market. July 4 onward, the Farmers Market and the Laurel County Extension will offer vouchers for seniors age 65 and older, until supplies last.

The London-Laurel Farmer's Market is open from 8 a.m. through noon, or until vendors are sold out. Product availability is posted on Saturday mornings on the Farmer's Market's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/LondonLaurelCountyFarmersMarket.

For more information on gardening or preserving fruits and vegetables, or for recipes ideas, contact the Laurel County Extension Office 864-4167.

dcombs@sentinel-echo.com

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