Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday indicated that he will soon announce new guidance for farmers markets, a week after his administration determined them to be nonessential businesses during the coronavirus crisis.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets last Friday told markets that they would not be allowed to operate under Scott's stay-at-home order for the time being due to public health concerns. The agency did, however, say that it expected to "allow some form of a farmers market in the very near future."
Asked Wednesday when he would have an update on farmers markets, Scott said he has been working with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and expected to release a plan Friday that he hoped could be implemented within the next week or two.
"We understand the need, and we want to put this on the front of the list," Scott said at his regular press briefing.
The move to shutter markets was met with surprise from market managers, many of whom had already rolled out measures meant to ensure proper social distancing and minimize person-to-person contact.
"We believe that farmers markets are as essential as grocery stores, and can operate safely during this pandemic," Kim Norman Mercer, a spokesperson for Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, wrote in an email to Seven Days last week.
That organization and the Vermont Farmers Market Association published a proposal last week outlining recommendations for markets to operate "in a way that protects public health and the health of market vendors and staff."
Scott wouldn't go into detail about his new plan on Wednesday but assured that it would be crafted with public safety in mind.
“Suffice it to say if we can do this safely, we want to make sure people understand they can still sell their goods, they can do it from home," Scott said. "But to put everyone together at this point in time in the traditional fashion is just not something that would be beneficial."