BY JILL WHALEN
When it’s business as usual, upward of 250 vendors set up shop outside and inside the two buildings at the Hometown Farmer’s Market.
Management of the popular weekly market decided to close buildings but still allowed outside vendors to operate. The move was made in light of COVID-19 concerns.
“On Monday, I made the decision to kind of shut down for two weeks only as a precaution — not because we had to. We didn’t have to, because we are on the governor’s list of essential business that can stay open because we offer necessities,” market owner Susan Biege said.
Shoppers could pick up fruits and vegetables, smoked meats, plants and flowers and paper goods.
“Meats and cheeses are normally here, deli products, bread, baked goods — besides our produce,” Biege said. “But for the safety of all of our vendors and customers we just figured we’d close the buildings and anyone who wants to come outside will be here for the next week or two.”
The partial closure also means no out-of-state stands.
“I left a message on our answering machine that anybody with nonessential things should stay home. Anybody from out of state should stay home. I’m not trying to be nasty. I’m just trying to minimize the spread a little bit and this is one of the ways that we can do it,” she said.
Amy Eroh, of Weatherly, visits the market most Wednesdays and was happy to know that it would remain open.
“I like to get fresh vegetables and fruits here,” she said. “And it is also good to get out of the house.”
Even though the market wasn’t crowded, sales were steady.
Asked whether she was concerned about being in contact with others at the market or elsewhere, Eroh said it does cross her mind.
“I’m just very careful about what I do when I’m out. I try to keep a distance from others,” she said.
At the Zeigler’s farm stand, workers pumped sanitizer into their hands every so often.
David Zeigler, who operates the West Penn farm, said he wasn’t afraid to show. He also said business was good and that most who had stopped by had made purchases.
Joe Triplett of Joe’s Smokehouse, Shickshinny, found business slow.
Huddled over a propane heater, Triplett blamed it on the cold temperatures and precipitation.
Mike Agostinelli, of Barnesville, said he ventures to the Hometown market almost every Wednesday.
“We come to get food, especially produce,” he said.
Even though the market is operating at the bare minimum, Biege believes it can help people with necessities.
“This way they can still come. They can still get their vegetables,” Biege said. “It’s just a handful of people but some of our customers are happy that we even did this much.”
Biege and her family have operated the market since 1982, but it opened in 1950.
“We’re here 70 years and we don’t plan on shutting down,” Biege said. “This is the first time in the history of the market that we had to (partially) shut down for anything but weather.”
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