| Amy Porter
EAST OTIS – The Otis Farmer’s Market announced this week that after much discussion with the owner of their space and the Board of Health, they will be hosting a market this season beginning May 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2000 E. Otis Rd.
Jess Ripley of Maple Corner Farm in Blandford, who has been the market manager in Otis for 11 years, said it really was a question whether to open. “There was a lot of back and forth with the store owner,” she said. The market has been held since 2005 on the property of Papa’s, offered at no charge by Larry Southard, who also serves on the town Board of Health.
Ripley said part of the discussion was the list of guidelines issued by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) that must be implemented.
“We’re going to attempt it, see how it goes. Hopefully, everyone will respect people’s space, and give us the room,” Ripley said, adding, “Everyone’s anxious to have it.”
Some of the rules include social distancing. If someone is at a vendor, give them their space. No touching items at any of the booths, including produce. Customers will be asked to point out what it is that they would like and it will be placed on the table. Anything that is touched will be required to be sanitized by the vendors during and after market.
All vendors will be wearing gloves and face masks, and no vendor will be placing sales into reusable bags. Vendors will be using plastic bags or recyclable paper bags.
One key person at each booth will take the money. Cash will still be accepted; however, debit cards and credit cards can still be used at a few of the booths.
There will also be a list of farms and vendors on the Otis Farmers Market Facebook page, who people may call ahead for a farm order to pick up at the market, in order to limit their exposure.
If anyone has symptoms of COVID-19, or is caring for someone with symptoms, they are asked to please stay home and don’t come to market.
“We hope that these rules and regulations don't affect the market too much, and that we are still able to have a good season. Our hellos will be from a short distance, but please know that we all appreciate all of you,” Ripley said.
Riplay described Otis as a small farmer’s market. Some of the bigger vendors are Pignatare’s Farm and Ray’s Farm from Westfield, Maple Corner Farm and WIndy Crest Farm in Granville, along with other smaller vendors that have plants, starter plants, microgreens, and sell locally produced peaches and apples in season.
Pitchfork Farm, an up-and-coming vendor from Westfield provides homemade dog treats among their offerings, as does Sweet Pea out of Otis, Ripley said.
Ripley said Maple Corner Farm offers canned goods, maple syrup and products, salad dressing, specialty canned goods, their own beef and pork, pies and muffins.
They have music every week, and Ripley said this year the musicians jumped at the chance to play. Already on board are Sean Bissaillon of Southwick, B. Joseph Korona of Easthampton, Jay Flaherty, a vacationer from Long Island, and Daneil Lefebvre of Holyoke. She said they will perform in a tent, a little distance from the vendors.
Ripley said this year is going to be a challenge, and having rules in place for everyone is going to be tough, but as a farmer, she said it’s worth it. “It’s a substantial part of our income, and gets people buying locally. Something in our current situation that we should all start doing,” Ripley said.