UPDATE: The Bethlehem Farmers’ Market, which had postponed its May opening to July 9, announced its choice to cancel its 2020 season in an email to the Lehigh community earlier today.
In the email, the Office of Sustainability urged community members to support the market via their online Vendor Guide which offers alternative locations to pick up farmers’ market favorites and some options for online ordering.
The market is home to a variety of vendors selling different products, including farm fresh produce and flowers, baked goods and food trucks. Many of these vendors have been regulars at the market for years, while others are new on the scene.
The decision to cancel comes even as the Lehigh Valley moved from the red to the yellow stage of reopening on June 5.
April 2020: Deb Martin, the manager of the farmers’ market, said the main goal of reopening the farmers’ market was to provide the people of Bethlehem with fresh food and local vendors with the opportunity to sell their products.
“We try to provide a community atmosphere by bringing in music and having prepared food vendors in this space to give people a chance to enjoy the outdoors for a little while,” Martin said. “However, that’s going to change because of social distancing.”
Within the week it postponed the reopening of the market for 2020, there were further restrictions put into place, Martin said.
The management team had assumed that the decision to open the farmers’ market in July gave them the right amount of time to plan and gather supplies such as hand sanitizers and other protective services for their customers and vendors, however increasing concerns pertaining to coronavirus have made that impossible.
Martin had been attending weekly Zoom meetings with market managers from around the country to learn how other farmers are dealing with this issue and the precautions they are taking to ensure the safety of their customers.
“Everybody is learning in this process because it’s mostly everybody’s first experience of a global pandemic,” Martin said. “We are just trying to keep track of what various agents are doing, what the city of Bethlehem is doing, what Lehigh is doing, and take the right steps to stay safe.”
Martin said the original opening dates for the market were designed to be while students are still in session because the Lehigh community has been the primary clientele for the market.
“Since classes have gone to remote learning, there hasn’t been the volume of customers available right now for us to reopen under these restrictive circumstances,” Martin said.
She said social distancing measures might continue even after the farmers’ market reopens.
The farmers’ market might not have the social atmosphere it’s used to once it reopens, but it is working to provide people with fresh food and to support the local vendors who make a living from this, Martin said.
Bread Fermented, a company that specializes in easy-to-digest sourdough bread, was one of the new vendors slated for the 2020 season.
Ida Bromfield, who bakes the bread in a micro-home bakery, said her business has continued to operate in these new circumstances as they take orders and deliver bread.
She said she was eager to start selling at the farmers’ market to continue to grow her customer base.
“I do want to make my product more accessible to the public, so I am looking forward to having the farmers’ market and to have more consistent sales,” Bromfield said.
Bromfield said this is her first time selling at a farmers’ market, and she is excited for the opportunity — even though July seems far away.
Rising Hill Farm, which features a stand of freshly cut flowers, has been a staple at the farmers’ market. Amber Lagonegro, who operates the farm with family and friends, said the business of the farm hasn’t changed too much regarding their operations, as they are still planting, cutting and growing flowers.
She said the postponement of the market until July will be a loss of income, but she said she also has other avenues to continue to sell the flowers. Lagonegro said the largest difference in recent months is the lack of face-to-face interaction, but the farm offers contactless deliveries and a stand for pre-orders.
She said she was not surprised by the postponement of the market, which is normally held weekly from late April or early May through November at Lehigh’s Farrington Square. Lagonegro said Lehigh students and staff are a large reason why she comes back to the market.
She hopes the market will return to normal by the fall.
“Honestly, the market isn’t very busy in the summertime when the students aren’t there, so if the students and staff aren’t there, that’s a lot of the clientele that aren’t going to be there,” Lagonegro said. “For me, I don’t want to go to the market if nobody is going to be shopping at it.”