COVID’s Continued Impact on the Corvallis Farmers’ Market

On a bright and sunny Wednesday or Saturday morning, groups of Corvallisites trek to the waterfront to enjoy the local Farmers’ Market. For many years, the market has been an iconic staple of downtown Corvallis, providing families with fresh produce, beautiful flowers, and local art. Last year, like the rest of the world, the Farmers’ Market had to learn to adapt during the Covid-19 pandemic.   

With the pandemic moving into its second summer, the Corvallis markets still remain quite different; masks are required, social distancing is encouraged, booths are spaced out, restaurant seating is closed, and there is no live music or events.   

Other than enforcing regular state-wide mandates, market vendors have come up with innovative ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Vendor booths are using a variety of materials like rope, plexiglass, and even shower curtains to provide physical barriers between their wares and the customers.   

Vendors are also being extra careful about sanitation, wiping down their tables and having personal hand washing stations. Many vendors are also pre-packaging their goods before they come to the market.   

Compared to last year, the market has seen a positive increase in the number of vendor booths. Although the booths are still spaced at least six feet apart, Rebecca Landis, director of the Corvallis-Albany markets said via email that many vendors who opted out of last year’s market are returning this year after getting vaccinated.   

Looking at customer attendance, new and old vendors have agreed that the markets are busier than in 2020, but not as busy as they were pre-pandemic.   

“It seems like there are less people than there used to be. I know there’s less students in town right now so that has definitely affected it…also those who are more vulnerable to COVID are still not out and about as they normally would be, ”said Ingrid Rollema from Lacomb Lavender Farms, a naturally harvested lavender company based in Linn County. Rollema is hopeful that with the increase of vaccinations and more students coming back to town, the market will pick up as the summer goes on.   

Other vendors have said that the lack of student foot traffic hasn’t affected sales.  

“I don’t think the students are farmers’ market shoppers per se. They would come just to do something on a Saturday, walk around and see what’s going on,” said Mariano Battro from La Mariposa, an artisan cheese vendor who has sold at the markets since 2012.   

Other vendors, like Erin McMullen from Rain Drop Farms, a company offering specialty cut flowers, said that although there is still a good amount of people attending the market, the atmosphere was still much different from previous years.  

Instead of whole families coming through the market, only one member of a family will come. Instead of tight groups of friends catching up in the middle of the market, or enjoying music on the corners, people stay distant and shop through quickly,” McMullen said  

Even with all these changes, it is clear that many businesses are still thriving.   

“The general trend for Oregon farmers’ markets is that we have fewer customers attending but on average spending more per visit,” said Landis, who argues that with many restaurants still take-out only, more people are cooking at home and spending more money looking for organic, healthy ingredients.   

This state-wide trend has affected local markets. Many market vendors have agreed that their diehard customers have continued to support the market throughout the pandemic.   

“Our business has actually done well. We did not experience a real slow down with COVID… We have actually had good demand. In fact right now we are having a hard time making enough product,” said Craig Hall Cutting from Wild Yeast Bakery, an artisan bread maker who prioritizes using local ingredients.  

Similarly, Mariano Battro from La Mariposa also said their business was never badly affected by COVID. Although each business has been affected differently, many vendors at the market seem to be weathering the storm just fine.  

The Corvallis Farmers’ market is operating 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday until November 24. At this time, the market is still requiring customers to wear masks and is encouraging social distancing, shorter visits, and smaller groups. Online presales are also available at locallygrown.localfoodmarketplace.com   

By Hannah Meiner