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Wichita Farmers' Market Will Open, With Extra Safety Precautions

Eugene Kim, flickr Creative Commons

Despite public pressure and concerns over spreading the coronavirus, the Kansas Grown Farmers' Market will open for its 30th season this weekend in Wichita.

Like grocery stores, farmers' markets are considered essential businesses under the governor’s stay-at-home order, says assistant Sedgwick County counselor Justin Wagner.

"The functions that deal with providing food have been found to be essential under the governor’s orders, so farmers' market would fit into that," he told county commissioners this week.

But, he added, the markets "should still follow social distancing."

Organizers with Kansas Grown say they’re adding extra safety measures, including a handwashing station and hand sanitizers throughout the market, and a designated hour for elderly and immune-compromised shoppers. Vendors won’t be allowed to offer samples.

“The safety of our customers and vendors is our top priority,” the market says on its website. It will be open Saturdays at 21st and Ridge, and will have locations in Derby and at Wichita's Union Station beginning next month.

Meanwhile, farmers' markets in Overland Park and Lawrence that were also supposed to begin on Saturday have delayed their opening days until late April or early May.

Asked whether farmers markets are allowed to open under the state order, Gov. Laura Kelly clarified that the markets, as “food stores,” are exempt.

“I would hope that they would, like many of our brick-and-mortar grocery stores have done, is put in common-sense procedures to ensure that people are not unduly exposed,” she said this week.

Kansas Health Secretary Lee Norman had a different take.

“I agree with the governor wholeheartedly that if people can distance themselves as the guidelines are out there, they should be fine,” he said. “But people don’t do that.”

He said if people don’t feel like they can socially distance themselves in a certain location, they should avoid it and not “skirt around” the rules.

“I think the strongest message we can give to, in this case, a farmers market is by not showing up.”

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.