Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Customers pack into the Ithaca Farmers Market pavilion in April 2019. This season, the crowds are gone: Social distancing guidelines are in place, and the market reopened only as a grocery outlet.

April 12, 2020

Ithaca Farmers Market Re-Opens Pavilion for Outdoor Season

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The Ithaca Farmers Market reopened on April 4 for the spring season at Steamboat Landing — albeit with updated rules and hours to provide the community with everything from apples to maple syrup.

Classified as an “essential” business, the market remains open as coronavirus cases climb in New York State. But the pavilion now looks markedly emptier than in years past: Shoppers are discouraged from socializing and the market has become strictly a grocery outlet, with the amount of vendors capped at 40 — half its normal capacity.

The farmers market is open on Saturdays in April, with shortened hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The market asks that sick community members stay home and that each household only send one member to shop. Customers are not allowed to touch produce, and prepared food vendors will provide food for take-out or curbside pick-up only.

To help Ithacans with their groceries, the Ithaca Farmers Market has also developed a directory of Tompkins County farms with direct delivery or pick-up options.

“It is not a social hour market. It’s a grocery mission-oriented expedition for folks,” said Becca Rimmel, the market’s executive director. “Customers are really doing a fantastic job social distancing. Vendors have responded positively to the changes we’ve been making.”

For local vendors, the Ithaca Farmers Market remains a vital revenue source. Michael Burns, an owner of Cayuta Sun Farm, said the market has grown to become at least three-quarters of his business over four years of selling meats at the market.

Joe Rizzo, the owner of Blue Oyster Cultivation, usually sells his mushrooms at both the Ithaca Farmers Market and at Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan. He has temporarily suspended trips to New York City, but he continues to distribute mushrooms in Ithaca, where he has experienced “higher than normal” sales, despite smaller crowds.

“I’m selling at the Ithaca market because it’s been very orderly and seems very safe,” Rizzo said.