Opening day at farmers market produces strong turnout

Published 9:33 pm Sunday, May 3, 2020

Aaron Ranson, owner of Dry Stack Coffee, was outfitted with a mask for safety during the opening day of the Boyle County Farmers Market Saturday morning. (Zac Oakes photo)

Vendors at the Boyle County Farmers Market couldn’t have asked for better weather conditions on Saturday for the first market of the season.

With temperatures hovering in the mid 70s throughout most of the morning and plenty of sunshine, several people from Boyle County and surrounding counties took advantage to visit the market set up on Constitution Square.

Sixteen vendors set up, selling a variety of produce, meat, eggs, locally roasted coffee, flowers, and more. Danville/Boyle County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jeff Jewel said that by noon, the market had more than 150 visitors.

Things were certainly different at the farmers market this season, as social distancing measures were enforced, but many of the vendors said they were, glad to get out and sell their products while interacting with other people in the community.

Aaron Ranson, co-owner of Dry Stack Coffee, said he loves the farmer’s market and was excited to set up on Saturday.

“You get to meet people and for me, being a small company, being able to interact directly with customers is the best marketing that I can do,” Ranson said. “Getting to meet people in the community and building relationships with them and helping them understand how great freshly roasted coffee is the biggest reason we come out.”

Ranson said that the farmers market in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is a little bit different, but it didn’t change his mind on wanting to set up a space.

“With social distancing, we have to set up differently,” Ranson said. “We have to set up farther apart. It makes the interaction with customers a little shorter. We’re trying to enforce the rule of one shopper at a time and just making sure everything is sanitized.”

Vendors also had smaller booths on Saturday than normal, but many of the vendors didn’t seem to mind the change.

“Normally, we have fresh-brewed coffee for purchase and for free samples, but we can’t do that right now with the precautions,” Ranson said. “It’s just not worth the effort it would take. I’ve had to change the setup quite a bit actually, but the turnout has been amazing. I think people were excited to have a safe place to come shop and get out of the house.”

Normally exhibits at the farmers market are very sensory, according to Jessica Merrick from Shooting Star Farm in Forkland.

“It’s different in that many of the farmers market experience deals with your senses,” Merrick said. “You want to be able to taste, smell, feel, touch, and all those things.”

Merrick said the change makes things different for customers who are used to being able to pick up soap and smell it or touch produce.

“That’s been a bit of a challenge, so I am anxious to see how sales are going to do,” Merrick said.

Customers didn’t seem to mind the changes either. Vendors said they had very few, if any, issues with customers ignoring public health guidelines.

“We haven’t had any problems,” Jordan Settles, from Rising Sons Beef, said. “I think everybody is just happy to be able to see one another and be able to interact and talk. We haven’t had any problems with people ignoring social distancing. It’s nice to be able to be out here and be in the open, too, with this great weather.”

Settles said that Saturday made Rising Sons Beef’s seventh season set up at the farmers market selling their homegrown beef, and while it was different, he said he had no reservations about setting up his space.

“None at all,” Settles said. “The organizers have done a great job of sending out emails, keeping all the vendors and customers informed about what to expect, and it went really smooth. No issues whatsoever.”

Merrick said she is thankful that Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles deemed farmers markets essential so that vendors could set up and sell their products.

“Thankfully Commissioner Quarles has always viewed farmers markets as a valuable asset and has the same classification as grocery stores,” Merrick said.

Ranson said he hopes to see large turnouts at the farmers market in the future, also.

“It’s more important now than ever to know where your food comes from, and you can come meet the people who grow it right here,” Ranson said.