AMES, Iowa — Despite life under the pandemic, a sense of normalcy was buzzing on Ames’ Main Street for their first outdoor farmers’ market of the year.
“It just has a very uplifting feeling for everyone,” said Amber Gable, who co-owns Backcountry Winery with her husband.
After two weeks of going virtual, Ames’ city council provided the go-ahead as long as proper precautions were met. “A lot of hand washing stations, vendors wearing masks and gloves and encouraging social distancing,” said Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market Manager Lojean Petersen.
To help reduce crowds, attendance is being limited to 600 shoppers at a time. Petersen said, “Our theme is stop, shop and go. So we encourage people to come down, stop and shop but shop quickly and leave so other people can come on down to shop.”
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proclamation allows only vendors who sell farm products or food, but it was more than enough for Breanna Miller from Ames. “It’s also nice because you have the opportunity to meet your local producers and vendors and get to know people,” said Miller.
Even though farmers’ markets are allowed across the state, not everyone involved was ready. “We usually have 60 to 70 vendors here and today we only have 19. Some of our vendors that do qualify to be on the street are not comfortable with being on the street,” Petersen said.
For small business vendors like Backcountry Winery, it was far from business as usual. “We are restricted. We can’t offer samples today, so this is the first show I’ve done in five years where we are not offering samples and engaging and asking for feedback,” said Peterson.
Peterson also says the opportunity remains vital. “We are still growing and looking for new customers. We are in a rural location 30 minutes from Ames and an hour from Des Moines. Any chance we get for exposure to new customers is important to us.”
Masks are encouraged but not required. City leaders will be monitoring attendance, and if they feel many are not following social distancing guidelines, they have the right to revoke the market’s application and make the market online only.
“It was exciting, even with the rain showers this morning. You can just tell the people were excited to be here,” said Gable.
Customers can still shop the Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market virtually. The outdoor market runs every Saturday through the fall from 8 a.m. until noon.
For more information about the market: http://www.amesmainstreetfarmersmarket.com/