Both a beloved celebration of summertime in Montana and a critical conduit to local food, the Livingston Farmers Market will reopen on June 10th. Western Sustainability Exchange (WSE), the market organizer, is implementing COVID-19 Response Guidelines to ensure the market is safe and successful for customers and producers.
“The health and well-being of our friends and neighbors is our number one priority”, says WSE Livingston Farmers Market Manager, Shannan Mascari. “We are redesigning this year’s Market to meet the COVID-19 safe practice protocols established by the Park County Health Department, Montana Farmers Market Network, and Montana State Health Department.”
Unlike previous years, vendors now must pre-register to obtain a booth space. First priority will be given to food producers, then artisans, followed by informational booths. Kids’ booths will not be allowed until Phase 3 of Montana’s COVID-19 reopening plan. All spaces for prepared food and beverage are already filled; however, new vendors may be added to a wait list. If a vendor would like to attend on a weekly basis, they must pre-register a week in advance.
Booths will be spaced at six-foot intervals, and vendors will be required to wear face masks and provide hand sanitizers. WSE will provide two hand washing stations and also have hand sanitizers at their booth. “Much to our disappointment, we cannot provide music or other entertainment that encourages crowds,” said Mascari.
Farmers markets are considered “essential businesses” by the Department of Health for good reason. More than 230 farmers, ranchers, and artisans rely on the Livingston Farmers Market to sell local food and products each Wednesday during the summer.
“Many don’t realize the major economic impact farmers markets have in Montana,” says Lill Erickson, WSE Executive Director. “The Livingston Farmers Market generates nearly $250,000 in sales for vendors within 17 days (one day a week for 17 weeks) which is then mostly spent locally.”
These challenging times have illuminated the weaknesses in our global industrialized and centralized food system. “The bright star in all this is Montana is well-suited to respond because of our agricultural heritage,” Erickson said. “Unlike so many areas, we can produce food locally. Hundreds of farmers and ranchers raise healthy food here in Montana. We still have several processing facilities that turn raw products into market-ready foods and in-region distributors to get the products to the many restaurants and grocers offering these foods to their customers. Perhaps our biggest advantage is Montana’s rich tradition of neighbors helping neighbors during tough times. The Livingston Farmers Market is a big part of this equation.”
In addition to financial health, access to local food is a key indicator of physical and mental health, and a core component of individual and community resiliency. Hundreds of people attend each week, and many vulnerable customers depend on the Market. WSE administers the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to Park County by providing $50 vouchers to low-income seniors for fresh fruits, vegetables and honey. This year, WSE is doubling their capacity and will provide vouchers to 100 senior citizens and connect qualifying seniors to proxy shoppers who can do their shopping for them. Seniors can apply starting June 1st.
“Although the market will look very different this year, I am still excited to see the community come out and support one another. Livingston is such an incredible community and has done some amazing things through all of this. While we won’t want to congregate in groups larger than 10 people during Phase 1 of the COVID-19 response, our hope is that everyone will still come out and show that ‘even apart, we are in this together!’”
This year’s Farmers Market will open June 10th and run each Wednesday through September 16th, from 4:30pm - 7:30pm at Miles Bandshell Park, next to the Livingston Civic Center. To accommodate At-Risk Patrons, the Market has designated 4:30 - 5:30 PM for ARP shopping. WSE will hold a vendor Zoom call on Monday, May 18th at 3:00 PM to explain the changes to this year’s Market. To learn more visit: https://www.westernsustainabilityexchange.org/lfm , or call/email Shannan Mascari at 406.222.0720 ext. 1, email@example.com.
About Western Sustainability Exchange
Western Sustainability Exchange (WSE) is a Livingston-based nonprofit specializing in regenerative agriculture and rural economic development. In addition to operating the Livingston Farmers Market, WSE offers workshops on a variety of regenerative agriculture topics, a sustainability certification program for farms and ranches, and connects certified operations to culinary and natural foods outlets and now the emerging market for carbon. WSE works throughout Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.