Greenmarkets Adapt to Coronavirus

Photos and captions by Andre Beganski

Full of fresh and local produce, there are more than 40 farmer’s markets operated by GrowNYC, New York City’s leading environmental organization. While the nonprofit has halted its recycling and composting programs because of coronavirus, shoppers can still purchase goods at open-air markets like the one at Union Square Park.

There are only three entrances to the Union Square Greenmarket, and visitors are asked to come in groups of no more than two people. Despite the limitations on party size, shoppers can spend upwards of 20 minutes waiting in line to enter on busier days like Saturdays. 

Whether vendor or customer, everyone within the market is required to cover their face and stand at least six feet apart in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Those who do not have a mask or some form of facial protection are turned away by GrowNYC staff at the market’s entrances.

Linda Hoeffner has been driving down from Montgomery, N.Y., with her husband to sell produce at Union Square since the market opened in 1976. Above, her husband Phil packages produce for a pair of customers. While they’ve noticed an uptick in the sale of herbs and flowers, Hoeffner is apprehensive about this season’s produce sales. “I don’t know what we’re going to do when we have tomatoes and corn that everyone wants to just look at,” she said.

Shoppers are asked not to touch any products, but simply to point and ask for what they would like to buy. Businesses are also required to set up barriers, like rope or tape, around their stands to prevent anyone from touching their products.

Rahim Ditta has seen an increased demand for essential foods like eggs among customers. While he typically works for Yellowbelly Farms, he has covered multiple shifts for vendors at Millport Dairy, where he sells hundreds of eggs a day. Vendors have had to cover for each other in instances when older workers at higher risk from the coronavirus can’t show up. “There’s been a lot of staffing issues because people don’t want to come in with this kind of situation,” Ditta said.

GrowNYC has incorporated hand-sanitizing stations into the market’s layout. These dispensers can be found throughout the market and at each of its entrances.