Thursdays in Farrington Square will soon again be filled with the aromas of homemade bread and freshly churned peanut butter. After having shut down prematurely last spring due to COVID-19, the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market will officially reopen on April 29.
The Office of Sustainability is working alongside the COVID-19 Community Response Team in pursuit of opening the market in a safe and efficient manner.
“It was determined that the market is a wonderful opportunity to help transition Lehigh back to ‘normal’ circumstances in which in-person events can be held,” said Audrey McSain, Lehigh’s Sustainability Program manager.
The market’s operations will look similar to years past but there will be some changes in order to keep the local community and vendors safe.
“The biggest differences will be seen in the layout, flow of foot traffic and, of course, mask-wearing and other COVID-19 precautions to keep everyone safe as they enjoy the market,” McSain said.
McSain said the market’s season will be extended this year. Normally it runs from April to October, but this year the market will close on November 18, just before the holiday season begins.
Since the market was unable to operate last year, vendors faced economic hardship due to extreme revenue loss.
One Lehigh student, however, managed to remain in touch with her favorite vendor.
“When the farmers’ market closed last school year, I stayed in contact with Joseph Conicelli because I was hooked on his peanut butter,” said Cayla Brint, ‘23. “He continued to deliver the peanut butter to me.”
Brint reached out to Conicelli this year, initially inquiring about buying peanut butter from him again. After chatting, however, they realized Brint could help Conicelli’s business further.
Brint has been utilizing social media to assist Conicelli and his Peanut Butter N’ More company in selling peanut butter to Lehigh students who are interested.
“I have been using my social media and friends to help me spread the word and people can essentially order through me,” Brint said. “I tell Joe the orders and he drops them off.”
She organizes the orders by name and customers are able to pick them up from her apartment.
Deb Martin, manager of the market, said there is a lot of demand for farmers’ markets in general because people feel safer shopping in an open-air environment.
The farmers’ market is expecting to receive a lot of business this year since loyal customers missed it so much last season.
“One of the reasons the market is in existence is to promote local growers, local producers and to support those businesses and vendors and to encourage sustainable production and agriculture in the local area,” Martin said. “I hope to figure out ways to work with businesses surrounding the campus and the market to collaborate with them and to support them as well because I know everybody had a really tough last year.”
The Office of Sustainability and market operators have all been working closely with the university to ensure a safe reopening.
Martin feels the university has been supportive since people are anxious to get back to a more normal way of doing things.
“I think everybody is excited, everybody has been super supportive in trying to get us back in business,” Martin said. “That includes the folks we deal with in the Bethlehem City Hall who have to give us permits and approvals. They also have been really helpful and supportive as we get vendors permitted and ready to go again.”