Berkeley markets change protocols in response to COVID-19 pandemic

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Berkeley markets and farms have experienced significant changes to their business infrastructures due to the COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, pandemic.

The Berkeley Flea Market, the Ecology Center and other markets, as well as individual vendors, have been affected by shelter-in-place and social distancing orders. These markets and farms have changed their policies since then.

The Ecology Center said in an April 3 press release that the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets will remain open and will comply with social distancing protocols. Time customers spend in the markets has been limited and if possible, customers are encouraged to send one family member to the market, according to the press release.

“As an essential service, the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets remain open, providing fresh, healthy food for the community,” the press release reads. “We are actively making operational changes to protect customers, farmers, and staff, and to mitigate the spread of disease.”

Similarly, individual farms have also made changes to protocols. Frog Hollow Farm, located in Brentwood, California, sells produce on its website, at farmers markets and at a farm-to-table cafe, according to its website. The farm also delivers to pickup spots in Bay Area counties.

The farm’s shop in the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace saw a decrease in foot traffic after the shelter-in-place order was enforced, forcing the shop’s closure, said Rebecca Courchesne, chef and partner at Frog Hollow Farm, in an email. There has, however, been a steady and marginal increase in sales at Berkeley farmers markets, according to Courchesne.

“On the farm, our online mail order channel has increased dramatically, as has our (community-supported agriculture). We have been quite busy here,” Courchesne said in the email.

Courchesne added that the farm has implemented social distancing protocols for its employees and staff to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Employees are also wearing gloves and masks and are washing and sanitizing their hands as frequently as possible.

Along with farmers markets and farms, the Berkeley Flea Market has made drastic changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The market is closed until April 7, according to its website.

Yasin Kahn, general manager of the Berkeley Flea Market, noted that while many vendors rely on the flea market for their business, the best way to stop the spread of the disease was to close the market.

According to the Berkeley Flea Market website, vendors will be able to sell items online. Vendors can send what they’re selling to the market’s email and have their items posted on the market’s webpage.

“The decision to close the market was to protect vendors, customers, anybody coming to the market and to try to stop the spread of the disease,” Kahn said.

Contact Shylie Ati at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.