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CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) has released guidelines for farmers’ markets and on-farm markets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The recommendations are to be used to mitigate the spread of the virus while keeping crucial agriculture-based businesses operating, the WVDA said in a press release.

“We have received many inquiries from markets regarding how they should operate during this trying time. We are encouraging markets to continue to operate with safeguards in place. Markets should also be actively adapting to the situation by considering deliveries, as well as pick up for customers,” Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said in the release.

The Department recommends the following:

  • Suspension of all sampling at farmers markets.
  • Consider delivery or pick up options.
  • Consider pre-packaging bags of fruits, vegetables and other items to limit shoppers’ handling of food, as well as keeping the flow of customers at a steady pace.
  • Consider alternate locations that could allow drive through or pick up.
  • Separate vendor stands at least six feet apart, if possible, to limit crowds.
  • Consider having a special time set aside for those patrons who may be elderly or immunocompromised.

“Local farm operations are crucial to our complex food supply. With the strains we are already seeing on the supply, folks should be looking more towards local options,” Leonhardt added. “At the end of the day, we all need to come together and support one another. That includes our local farmer.”