Kankakee’s Farmers Market saw drive-thru customers for the first time this past weekend.
“We were just as busy today as any first day of the spring market in spite of all the changes, “said Sarah Cherry of Turtle Acres Saturday. “For us, the drive-thru market was a great success.”
Pre-orders were allowed via the website for faster service to customers waiting in lines inside vehicles. The move to a drive-thru model was due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pre-ordering helped us move traffic past our booth as quickly as we could,” Cherry told us Saturday afternoon. “Pre-ordering was not required, so we were able to sell to customers as they drove up, many first time customers.”
As part of the prescribed state and local food safety procedures for this year’s Farmers Markets, the Illinois Farmers Market Association has released a long list of guidelines for vendors to abide by. Among them include keeping items in sanitized containers, moving to credit/debit only transactions, and requiring staff to wear protective gloves and masks while working a booth.
Cherry says one benefit to the drive-thru, the weather is no longer a factor in attendance issues.
“Having done Farmers Markets for 17 years, we know that weather is a huge factor in attendance – rain, to cold, or too hot and the attendance declines greatly. If people do not have to get out into the weather to shop hopefully that means they are more like to come and spend money at the Farmers Market.” Cherry said.
As part of the requirements to volunteer at a market this year, the Illinois Farmers Market Association required a signed statement by all volunteers regarding the pandemic. Questions asked included general COVID-19 concerns asking if volunteers had been quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19 if volunteers had had symptoms in the past 14 days or had second-hand exposure to anyone testing positive for the pandemic.
Christine Doud, the owner of Cranky Mike’s in Momence, says one of the biggest complaints she heard from Kankakee’s Market on Saturday was slow lines. “We have to keep going and trying new things,” Doud said on Saturday. “We only took pre-orders today and our customer count was 40. But we had a lot of people requesting popcorn for next week.”
Kankakee’s Farmers Market will be open Saturdays from 8 am to 12 pm.
Farmers Markets across Illinois opened last Saturday allowing for social distancing standards to enforce the majority of their health protocols, including markets in Downtown Evanston and Palatine. Other markets plan to open in June, including Naperville’s 95th street market, Orland Park on June 4th, and Naperville’s St. John’s Episcopal Church Market on July 1st. It’s unclear what model of service those markets will use to service their customers.
No announcement has been made on Frankfort or Momence Summer Farmer Markets to date. Herscher and Manteno both closed their Farmers Markets following in the 2019 Season.