(May 29, 2020) Although foot traffic at the Ocean Pines Farmers & Artisans Market was under par this Memorial Day Weekend, attendance has been strong overall despite the spread of covid-19.
Market Manager David Bean said a small dip last week notwithstanding, head counts have trended favorably since Gov. Larry Hogan’s March 23 executive order designated outdoor produce vendors an essential business.
“We were pleased with the crowd that we did have,” he said. “I had 30 vendors there this Saturday [and] typically on Memorial Day Weekend I’d have 85 vendors. We’ve seen our foot traffic since mid-April skyrocket … simply because people feel more comfortable being there and shopping in that environment,” he said.
After Maryland issued covid-19 health-safety guidance requiring face coverings and physical distancing at retail businesses, including farmers markets, Bean said participants in the Ocean Pines market adapted quickly.
“All my vendors have stepped up to the situation and embraced what they had to do,” he said. “The vendors and the market are more concentrated on serving our customers and providing the product that they’re looking for.”
Bean said demand for locally produced items has increased greatly during the pandemic.
“The uptick is in the green market,” he said. “In other words, people looking for produce, seafood, meat, eggs, honey and that type of thing.”
While trying to limit the communal experience by encouraging customers to “come, shop and leave,” Bean said the public has largely abided by safety guidelines.
“What really surprises me a lot is how people have embraced the situation,” he said. “People have been really cool [with] the social distancing and wearing masks.”
Regardless of the momentary hold on other activities at the market, such as cooking demonstrations, and visits by domestic animals such as alpacas, a groundswell of community support for merchants has been evident.
“The public has been great and they’ve embraced our vendors,” he said. “A lot of our vendors are getting tips … for doing what they’re doing.”
As for the future, Bean said the time for the phased-in statewide reopening plans remain cloudy.
“We’re following the protocol set forth by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and state heath departments,” he said. “We have not gotten any directives; we’re looking for direction and waiting to hear what that will be.”
Bean said the Ocean Pines Farmers & Artisans Market, which marked its ninth anniversary this Memorial Day Weekend, would continue despite the current challenges.
“We’ve been open and we will continue to stay open,” he said. “We’re there rain or shine.”
The challenging times have also fostered a stronger bond between vendors and customers, Bean said.
“It’s been a great relationship with the Ocean Pines community,” he said. “It opens our eyes [and] we see things a little differently than we did before.”
The Ocean Pines Farmers & Artisans Market is open Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., in White Horse Park on 239 Ocean Parkway. For further details visit online at oceanpines.org/web/pages/farmers-artisans-market.