Minnesota Farmers' Market Association 

Guidance for Minnesota Farmers’ Markets and Vendors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With Governor Walz's Executive Order 20-74, farmers' markets are now allowed to offer both food samples and onsite food consumption provided certain conditions are met. We still need to follow 6-feet social distancing, promote hand-washing, and encourage healthy market activity.

Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is waiving the requirement for markets to buy a food license on a discretionary basis if the reason the modifications were made to the market is to comply with Executive Order 20-04.  Once the COVID-19 crisis passes and a market chooses to continue operational activities in the same way that would require a license, the market will have to buy a license.

See below: 

  1. Guidance for Markets (Food Access Programs: SNAP, EBT, FMNP, POP)
  2. Guidance for Vendors
  3. Sanitation Guidance for Markets and Vendors
  4. Guidance for Market and Vendor Workforce
  5. Guidance for Communicating With Customers

Guidance for Markets

Evaluate your current layout; see if you can redesign it to build in the six feet of separation between vendors and customers; and customers and customers. Following are suggestions we’ve gathered from farmers’ markets across the U.S.   

  • Space stalls at least 6-feet apart 

  • Place an empty table in front of all vendors’ display tables, using that table to place purchases; exchange money

  • Many credit cards have settings that allow for no-touch transactions; disabling the need to input pin numbers, or require signatures

  • Widen the aisles between the rows of stalls 

  • Tape / chalk 6’ markings in all aisles to show customers where they can stand to maintain 6’ of separation with each other

  • Create a border around your market, limiting entrances and exits

    • Fencing / Tape / Rope the market perimeter. Add signs with “Please enter through the entrances with the handwashing stations.”

    • Place handwashing stations at entrances, requiring everyone to wash their hands upon entering

      • Can customers all go in the same direction in aisles, to limit people crossing in front of each other in less than six feet? 

  • If feasible, limit the number of customers in the market at one time

- Encourage families to send just one person into the market to shop

- Schedule the first hour of the market for customers who have health issues or may need special


- If you need to limit the number of people in your market in order to maintain the 6' separation: a

circle with the required 6' radius for social distancing is 113 square feet. Take your market area 

square footage open to shoppers (excluding vendor stalls) and divide by 81. E.g., a market 150' long by

50' wide = 7,500 sqft. Divided by 81 = 93 people could shop at the market at one time.

  • Increase signage at the market, to potentially include:

    • Wash your hands >>> here’s a handwashing station - note the 'flip-top' spigot

    • Maintain 6’ distance

    • Sorry – no mingling! No handshaking!

    • Please do not touch products, vendors will package and hand to you

    • Please no onsite consumption of food – take home only

    • Thank you supporting your local foodshed

  • Increase market volunteers / staff to monitor handwashing, crowd control, etc.

  • To reduce crowds and yet maintain sales, have customers place pre-orders with vendors; or the market. This could include setting up a drive through to pick up these pre-orders

    • Multiple online sales platforms and models exist. **Note – some of these options legally require a food license; MDA is waiving the licenses during the COVID-19 crisis only. Food safety precautions must still be taken. 

    • Many markets are having vendors take pre-orders, and then coordinating the drive-thru or curbside pickup at the market. 

    • Some markets have their own online sales platforms that include products from all their vendors. Customers place their orders and pay online;  the market pays the vendors; and coordinates the drive-thru or curbside pickup at the market.

    • Encourage online prepayments to reduce virus spread through handling of money, credit cards, etc. 

    • Consider different days or locations for the drive throughs to occur to pick up pre-ordered products vs your regular in-person market.

      • Remember to check that your insurance policy will cover additional locations, times, activities.

  • Discontinue activities where people gather: educational events, cooking demos, music

  • Remember to promote all your changes via your website, social media platforms, MFMA elist, Public Health, SHIP, etc. Update your Minnesota Grown listing if you have one. Inform vendors and customers of the changes you are making and precautions you are taking (e.g., market design, increased handwashing, sanitization), as well as of any policies for customers (e.g., do not to shop if you are sick, keep 6 feet of distance).

Food Access Programs: 


The USDA requires a farmers’ market to offer SNAP if the market is open and has a SNAP program.

Many markets use tokens (wood, plastic, metal, paper, laminated paper) to offer various programs. 

According to UCLA, this virus lives on plastic and metal up to 72 hours; on cardboard up to 24 hours. Metal and plastic tokens can be sanitized using the appropriate solutions; time may be the best sanitation for wood and paper tokens. Laminated paper tokens may be wiped off.

Although some risk of transmitting the virus does reside with the tokens, the main risk is really in the people interaction. 

Our best advice: as SNAP participants approach to use the card reader and obtain tokens, market worker should back up 6 feet. Once the SNAP participant has finished with the machine transactions, they should back up 6 feet, allowing the market worker to advance and complete the process. 

The Power of Produce (PoP) program may need to be postponed for the year since limiting the number of shoppers in the market is the highest priority. A market could consider allowing the family's designated shopper to pick up the produce their children have chosen (without the children being present).

Sanitation Guidance for Markets and Vendors

  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for how to clean and disinfect: CDC COVID-19 Clean & Disinfect.

  • Set up a schedule to sanitize all surfaces at your market where people touch: tables, handwashing stations, door handles, card machines, shopping baskets, etc. 

    • Schedule could include a log where the person writes the time and their initials when done sanitizing

  • If you have restrooms or port-a-potties, set up a schedule to sanitize all surfaces and replenish soap, sanitizers, toilet paper

  • Set up a schedule to replenish handwashing stations with water, soap, paper towels; remove waste paper and water

  • If using table coverings, make sure they are sanitizable (vinyl, plastic; not cloth or wood) 

  • Recommended products that have an EPA-approved emerging viral pathogen claims: 

Guidance for Market and Vendor Workforce

  • Sick workers (including vendors) must not come to the market

  • Encourage workers to practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings between market days, to decrease risk of potential exposure to the virus

  • Set a schedule for workers to wash hands, and sanitize materials

  • Stagger eating / break times or provide additional space to increase distancing of workers. (Market workforce are is allowed to consume food onsite 

  • Consider establishing a designated area in which all market workforce should eat. This can simply be a large open space outside of the stall areas 

  • Remind workforce to wash their hands before and after eating

Guidance for Communicating

With Customers

Several markets have established wonderful communication pieces already for their customers. Review these and find the messages that work best for your market and community:

Maple Grove Farmers' Market 

Little Italy Mercato Farmers' Market

Pleasantville Farmers' Market

MFMA provides services, programs and leadership that support and promote farmers' markets across Minnesota.

Minnesota Farmers' Market Association /// 9800 155th Street East, Nerstrand MN 55053 /// info@mfma.org 

Communications Director: Kim Guenther /// kguenther@mfma.org /// (573) 470-4445 

Director of Member Services: Jesse Davis /// jdavis@mfma.org /// (218) 259-9675 

Executive Director: Kathy Zeman /// kzeman@mfma.org /// (507) 664-9446 


Copyright MFMA 2019

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software