Market visitors shop at a local produce stall at the Federal Way Farmers Market in 2019. Photo courtesy of Shelley Pauls

Market visitors shop at a local produce stall at the Federal Way Farmers Market in 2019. Photo courtesy of Shelley Pauls

Federal Way Farmers Market to open 18th season with new safety guidelines

Market opens at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 16; masks, social distancing required.

As the Federal Way Farmers Market opens this weekend for its 18th season, a few new guidelines are in place to keep both vendors and visitors safe.

Farmers markets in the state of Washington have been deemed essential by Gov. Jay Inslee, however, social distancing guidelines have led Federal Way Farmers Market Director Rose Ehl to redesign much of this year’s season.

“We’ve spent hours and days on it to come up with a plan that would be approved by the health department,” Ehl said of the strict rules and regulations that markets must follow.

Federal Way’s Farmers Market opens Saturday, May 16 from 9-3 p.m. Held in the Southwest corner of the Commons Mall parking lot, the market is a weekend tradition for the community from May through October.

This year, visitors and vendors are required to wear masks while at the market. The opening hour of the market (9-10 a.m.) is reserved for people ages 60 and older, and those with compromised immune systems. No dogs or animals, except for service animals, are allowed at the market.

The layout of tables, chairs and vendors that once encouraged catching up with friends or networking has also been restructured to feature one exit and one entrance.

Reorganizing the layout helps limit the amount of people in the market to less than 40 individuals at one time and reduce the ability for socializing in the area, Ehl said.

Visitors to the market can shop fresh produce from local farmers, fresh eggs, bakery goods, kettlecorn, and colorful flower bouquets from local florist Angel’s Greens. Essential items will also be sold at the market, including plant starts, coffee, soaps and masks made by Moni’s Sweet Creations. BECU will also be handing out free shopping bags.

In weeks prior, Ehl was unsure if this season would happen due to the current health crisis, but said she is grateful for the clearance to host the market and help farmers, such as Bautista Farms and Sidhu Farms, earn their much-needed revenue.

With no cooking or meal preparation allowed on site at the market, food truck vendors, such as K.C. Deez BBQ, will have pre-made, pre-packaged food for visitors to purchase.

“They can simply stop by and pick it up, which reduces the amount of standing around in the market,” Ehl said.

The market also accepts programs such as WIC, Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Market Match, previously called Fresh Bucks, also matches any amount of money an individual puts onto their EBT card with coupon dollars to be used at Federal Way’s market this year.

As social distancing guidelines ease and as additional produce from farmers comes into season, Federal Way’s market will be adding more vendors. This weekend, market goers will find a variety of vendors throughout the 20 stalls.

Ehl says the market has not yet canceled any of their events from June onwards, such as the annual Taste of Federal Way held in September, and is thankful for Federal Way’s ongoing support for nearly two decades.

“We’re just as much of a community market as we are a farmers market,” Ehl said. “We’re trying to keep people as safe as possible so that we can continue our market in a safe atmosphere.”

The Federal Way Farmers Market is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays at 1701 S. 320th Street through October.

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