• 81°

Farmers’ Market has busy first day

Lauren Frazer had bags filled with butterhead lettuce and garden plants and held an iced coffee as she and her mother, Leslie Mink, made their way from vendor to vendor on opening day of the Winchester-Clark County Farmers’ Market on Depot Street Saturday.

“It feels good to get to do something normal!” Frazer said from behind her cloth mask and sunglasses.

Welcome to the new normal.

At this year’s Farmers’ Market, customers weren’t supposed to handle the produce, and vendors have to be masked and gloved and have their temperatures checked before setting up. There has to be sanitizer at each work station to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

A few had to be reminded about the need for social distancing, but as soon as they were asked, they would politely step back, Julie Staton, one of those helping to run the market, said.

There were only about eight vendors.

“This is probably our lowest volume of vendors in the past couple of years, but only because a lot of our vendors are older and don’t want to take a risk,” Staton said.

Others said they would return when they didn’t have to wear masks. The Department of Agriculture’s new rules may remain in place for the summer, she said.

While there were few vendors, there were plenty of customers.

Andy Hamon, who owns Hamon Haven Winery, was pleased with the turnout and sales.

“We’ve done very well,” he said, sitting behind an array of red and white wine bottles. “We’ve sold more than a case, and it’s not even 10 o’clock yet.”

“I think people are just happy to be out,” he said.

Rachel and T.J. Dozier had driven all the way from Berea to visit the market.

“I just wanted to get out of the house, really,” she said.

The couple were talking to Betsy Fink and her daughter, Allison, of Fink Meats.

A few customers said concerns about employees at big meatpacking plants having COVID-19 made them feel that buying locally raised and processed meats was a safer option.

Betsy Fink said that during the pandemic, she and her family found more people were coming to them for meat.

People who don’t typically sell the meat they raise at local markets are doing that now, she said.

“We’ve seen that over the last two years, the push for more local meat … but I think it’s even more so now,” said Fink, whose family specializes in lamb products.

“It’s a lot better than what you can get at the grocery” in terms of being healthful, said Amanda White of R&S Lean Meat on Bybee Road, who was selling beef and pork. “Ours is grass fed, and grain fed for about two weeks,” and they don’t use hormones, she noted.

One of her customers, Della Brewer of Estill County, said she always comes to Winchester to buy hamburger from R&S because she likes hers lean, she said.

“You can’t beat home-grown,” said Mike Holland, who said he was looking forward to enjoying some “leaf lettuce and bacon grease.”

Emma Taylor was selling hydroponic butterhead lettuce and arugula from her family’s Basin Spring Farm, which her family has owned for more than 200 years.

“This past week, the lettuce has grown really fast, so we’ve been selling it fast too, and made a lot of money,” she said.

Shawn and Samantha Ballard of Jeffersonville, who were there with their children, Kash and Noah, said they come to the farmers market every year to buy food.

“It supports a lot of families,” he said.

Staton said her Staton Ridge Farm had sold out of plants for the day, and she said most of the meat and egg vendors sold all the products they brought.

“We’ll see what the season holds for us, but so far, I think, everybody has had a successful day,” she said.