Farm Fresh Goods Still Available at Wilton’s Many Farmers’ Markets in the Age of COVID-19

The Wilton Farmers' Market returns on June 3, 2020

Farmers’ markets may have been dormant for the winter, but they are poised to re-open in Wilton despite COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines still lingering in many aspects of retail business.

Wilton Farmers’ Market

The Wilton Farmers’ Market, a three-season favorite for fresh produce and other locally crafted goods, is scheduled to open for the 2020 season on Wednesday, June 3. The market will be open every Wednesday from 12-5 p.m. from June 3 through October 28.

The Wilton Chamber of Commerce has worked to support the farmers’ market for many years, while the Wilton Historical Society will continue to host the weekly event at its 224 Danbury Road location as it has since 2011.

As in previous years, the market will feature an array of products from local farms and artisans. An updated list of vendors (which also can be found on the event page of the Chamber’s website) includes:

New this year will be COVID-19 precautions to ensure the safety of shoppers, vendors, staff and volunteers. During the pandemic, farmers’ markets were deemed essential businesses, but like grocery stores, they must follow state guidelines to protect everyone present.

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture issued Guidance For Farmers Markets to be used as “best practices” at farmers’ markets and local farm stands as a supplement to the state’s Safe Stores guidelines.

On its website, the Wilton Chamber details the numerous specific safety measures that will be implemented at the Wilton Farmers’ Market. For example, the market will be:

  • Limiting the number of customers inside the market to one shopper per vendor’s space at a time
  • Maintaining the social distance protocol of six feet of separation between individuals, with markers where necessary
  • Designating one-way shopper foot traffic from a clear entrance point
  • Encouraging shoppers to come unaccompanied by family members whenever possible
  • Requiring all shoppers to wear a face covering in the market (market managers, vendors, staff and volunteers will also be wearing gloves and face masks whenever they’re interacting with customers or handling products)

In addition to requesting the public’s cooperation with safety guidelines, the Chamber is urging customers to pre-order from vendors offering online ordering. There will be a pick-up area separate from the main market area. This is expected to reduce the number of customers at any given time and speed the flow through the market.

Shoppers are discouraged from bringing reusable bags; vendors are not required to handle or fill customers’ bags.

Apart from COVID-related differences, the Wilton Farmers’ Market will be similar to previous years. Camille Carriero, the market’s manager, reported, “[Vendors] are participating as usual,” noting just one exception with unique circumstances. Carriero added, “And food trucks will be there too!” (Customers should note that, unlike past years, picnic tables will not be available for dining.)

Ambler Farm

Among the returning vendors at the Wilton Farmers’ Market will be Ambler Farm. Ambler’s Director of Agriculture Jonathan Kirschner (also known as “Farmer Jonathan”) said he’s looking forward to the June 3 kickoff.

“Camille [Carriero] has been communicating with us how the market will differ from previous years and we feel comfortable with the changes put in place to help mitigate the risk from the coronavirus. We are lucky that the virus has not affected our planting schedule too drastically and expect to have our full range of crops as the season progresses,” he said.

In addition to the Wednesday market, Ambler Farm will operate its own farm stand every Saturday, starting June 6, from 9 a.m to 2 p.m., at Ambler Farm (257 Hurlbutt Street).

Like the Wilton Farmers’ Market, Ambler Farm has adapted its on-premise farm stand to COVID-19 guidelines, including a separate entrance and exit; wider, one-way aisles; a separate check-out area; and more.

Ambler Farm’s (pre-COVID-19) farm stand

For now, Ambler Farm is only accepting credit cards, not cash, at the farm stand as well as at Wilton Farmers’ Market.

Kirschner described one silver lining of the pandemic: “Ambler Farm has always felt supported by the Wilton community and I think the pandemic has only strengthened that support. Having the ability to access fresh produce whether by growing at home, in a community plot, or buying it from a local farm seems more important to many people than it was even three months ago.”

The Ambler Farm website proudly describes its vegetables as “100% organically grown from seed in a compost-based, biologically-active potting soil.” Ambler Farm produces arugula, basil, beets, carrots, cucumbers, fennel, garlic scapes, kale, baby leeks, lettuce, sweet onions, peas, summer squash, swiss chard, and strawberry plants. Availability changes week to week; shoppers can subscribe to a newsletter to receive a weekly update on what produce is available.

Volunteers are invited to take shifts at the farm stand or to help in the greenhouse and fields. Anyone with questions may contact Farmer Jonathan by email.

Georgetown Farmers’ Market

The Georgetown Farmers Market first opened in the summer of 1998. Though officially in Redding, its location at 4 Old Mill Road in Georgetown is convenient for many Wilton residents.

The Georgetown Farmers Market will open on Sundays, starting June 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Sal Geremia, owner of Geremia Gardens, manages the market. In response to COVID-19, the market will be set up differently this year. “I am going to space vendor tents out triple the distance that they normally are,” he said.

Geremia Gardens, based in Southington, is also a vendor at the market.

Updates about the market will be added to the Georgetown Farmers’ Market Facebook page.