CAMAS — After a delay, the Camas Farmer’s Market opened for its 12th season earlier this month.
The extra time was spent working with the city to create a plan for the market that would be safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve always promoted the farmers market as a social gathering place,” said Tina Eifert, program coordinator for the Camas Farmer’s Market. “We’ve had to completely flip that model. Farmers markets are now solely places to get nutrient-dense food.”
On the market’s opening day June 3, a U-shaped line of people wearing masks formed behind a sign that said, “Welcome! Line Starts Here.” This season, there’s only one entrance to the market, which stretches along Fourth Street between Everett Street and Franklin Street.
Shoppers must stand 6 feet apart and circle through the booths clockwise, exiting the market right near where they enter. Hand-washing stations are placed at the entrance and throughout the market.
To keep the market no-contact, shoppers can’t handle products. They must use cards or exact change for payment, and bag their purchases.
Market organizers ask that only one person per household shop and leave quickly, or better yet, preorder. They ask that shoppers wear face coverings, and urge people to stay home if they are sick or have symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath. The market allows no pets, only service dogs.
The stripped-down market offers no samples, music, kids activities or food trucks.
It isn’t just the absence of a guitar player and the Funky Fresh juice truck with its line of thirsty smoothie-seeking patrons that makes the market seem empty. It has only 12 booths instead of the usual 30 to 35.
Carrie Schulstad, who has been a part of the market since joining the founding board 13 years ago, said she’s sad that many of the longtime vendors couldn’t participate in the market’s opening this season.
Nonetheless, Schulstad said she’s happy the market offers the community “the healthiest grocery store that you can imagine.” And she remains hopeful that more vendors can be added as the season continues.
For now, booths at the market are dedicated solely to produce and other locally grown edible products. On opening day, asparagus, snap peas, salad greens and strawberries filled booths. Reister Farms offered locally grown lamb and eggs. Honey City sold honey and bee pollen from Vancouver and Brush Prairie. A rainbow of microgreens and bright edible flowers filled the Harvest of Peace booth.
Newcomer Christina Safford, aka the Lady in the Window, sold her homegrown herbal tea mixes, including lemon balm and orange ginger, as well as plant starts. Emerald-colored mint leaves, palm-sized orange slices, and wandlike cinnamon sticks floated in glass bottles that glistened in the sun at the corner of her booth.
The Camas Farmer’s Market continues to fulfill its mission of making healthy, locally grown produce available to all people in Clark County by encouraging the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Financial support for the market has taken a hit as the economy has suffered during shutdowns, but the Camas market still offers up to $10 in matching funds per SNAP user.
The current vendors will remain at the market for the rest of the season. Eifert hopes to add more booths and products, especially flowers, to the market as Clark County progresses through the phases laid out in Gov. Jay Inslee’s gradual reopening plan.
The goal is to add back all the vendors at some point, but activities, musicians, and food trucks won’t be returning this year.
Opening day ran smoothly, and Eifert is confident that the market can safely operate this season.
“I’m not worried about how the community in Camas will respond to the new rules,” she said. “They showed they can do this safely.”