New Farmers Market Guidelines Aim to Keep Vendors and Customers Safe

Here’s how local farmers markets are working to keep shoppers and vendors safe as they reopen for the season.

Mother’s Day weekend is also the kickoff to our area’s farmers market season, with many other markets scheduled to open later in the season watching closely to see how the new safe-navigation initiatives work and if they need to evolve over time.  Under our state’s “Safer At Home” order, farmers markets are considered essential businesses.

Both the Fondy Farmers Market (2200 W. Fond du Lac Ave.) and West Allis Farmers Market (6500 W. National Ave.) begin their 2020 seasons on Saturday May 9. Fondy, along with the UW-Extension, lead the Milwaukee Farmers Market Coalition. West Allis, established in 1919, worked with the West Allis Health Department and within the guidelines provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to establish best practice measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

You’ll see many changes this year at both markets. If you don’t have a mask and plan to visit the markets, you’ll need one now. As is mentioned in the guidelines for both markets, try to decide what you want to buy before you arrive. This isn’t the time for leisurely browsing. That might be counter to how you’ve ever shopped in a farmers market before. But remember that this year is unlike any previous.  

West Allis Farmers Market posted the following guidelines for customers:

  1. Do not visit a farmers market if you are sick or a member of a high-risk group. If possible, please send a family member or friend to shop for you, or seek out pickup and delivery options. Be safe and stay healthy!
  2. Vulnerable shoppers and seniors are invited to shop the market during hours reserved exclusively for them, Tuesday & Thursday from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. We ask other shoppers to respect this time and join us during regular hours to allow these shoppers added safety.
  3. Cloth face coverings are required.
  4. We recommend sending one family or household member to shop if possible. Always maintain a social distance of six feet while shopping and waiting in line at the Farmers Market. Social distancing will be enforced by our Market Attendant and vendors.
  5. Customers will not be hand-selecting goods, let the vendor know what you would like and they will fulfill your order.
  6. Portable handwashing stations will be set up around the Market for regular use by customers and vendors. Please take advantage of this and use before and after visiting a vendor booth.
  7. Make a shopping list to minimize browsing time. We understand that browsing is often the best part of your trip to the West Allis Farmers Market, but for the safety of all customers and vendors, lingering will not be permitted at this time.
  8. When exchanging paper and coin money:
    – Do not touch your face afterward.
    – Place money directly on counter when paying, and change will be placed directly on counter as well.
    – Vendor will wipe down counter between each customer at checkout.
  9. While washing produce, we recommend you follow the FDA’s 7 tips for washing produce and fruits:
    – Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
    – If damage or bruising occurs before eating or handling, cut away the damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
    – Rinse produce before you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
    – Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
    – Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
    – Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
    – Remove the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.
  10. Continue to support the West Allis Farmers Market vendors! They rely on your patronage and are doing everything possible to adhere to health guidelines for your safety. Please be kind and patient with our vendors and staff.

The market also posted a partial list of vendors (with links to their websites), which includes Weston’s Antique Apple Orchards from New Berlin (pears, plums, apples, raspberries as well as apples), Bower’s Produce in East Troy (tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers, squash), Harmony Specialty Dairy (makes British tribute cheeses) and Yang Family Farm (greens, herbs and many types of fresh produce). 

West Allis Farmers Market (6500 W. National Ave.)
Hours: Saturdays 1-6 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays noon-6 p.m.
*Customers are only permitted to enter the market on 65th Street. Therefore, customers will be moving in the same direction down each aisle, not alternating directions.

At Fondy Farmers Market, whose history dates to 1917, the staff is working to provide as much space as possible for vendors and for customers to shop safely. Fondy has issued guidelines for its Saturday opening. Note that moving forward, those guidelines will be updated as needed. Wear a mask. Be mindful of those around you. Maintain social distancing, and unlike how you may be accustomed to shopping, leave the reusable bags at home. (2200 W. Fond du Lac Ave.)

Fondy guidelines for customers: 

  1. Stay home if you are sick or you are in a high-risk group
  2. Face coverings are recommended to be worn while shopping
  3. Practice good cough and hand hygiene
  4. Maintain 6 foot distancing from other customers and vendors while walking around market and while making or waiting to make purchases or at Info Booth 
  5. Customers age 65+ should have someone shop for them whenever possible
  6. Listen to Fondy Farmers Market staff who will communicate with and disperse customers if physical distancing is not being practiced; one customer per vendor’s marked selling area will be allowed
  7. Customers are discouraged from handling produce/products before buying; vendor encouraged to bag/pack purchases
  8. Reusable shopping bags are discouraged
  9. Make a shopping list and complete shopping as quickly as possible
  10. Strongly recommend one customer per household to enter the market for shopping. Customers in need of assistance should bring a helper into the market
  11. No pets or smoking in the market space
  12. This is not social hour! Limit interactions with other customers, vendors and staff

Early Season: May 9-June 20.
Hours: Saturdays 9 a.m.-noon. 

Regular Season: June 27-Nov. 1
Hours: Saturdays 7 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Late Season: Nov. 7-21
Hours: Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m.



Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.