The Meridian Farmers’ Market has made major changes in reopening to keep the community safe. Initially, the market was held inside the Meridian Mall during the winter months. That immediately shifted once COVID-19 hit in March of 2020. Now, the market is held outdoors to accommodate social distancing.
Thomas Cary, the Farmers’ Market manager, had to work diligently to establish a reopening plan for the following seasons, beginning in May of 2020. However, this is the first winter market season with COVID precautions put in place.
This change is in effect rain or shine, blistering cold or sweltering hot. However, this has proven to be difficult in the winter months. To combat the cold, Meridian employees put out several heat lamps to help shoppers and vendors brave against the elements. Nevertheless, the market experienced cancellations from Vendors due to the frigid weather conditions.
Additionally, hand sanitizing stations were set up around the market and mask use is enforced. If someone refuses to wear a mask, they are escorted out of the market. Vendors’ stalls are separated by 10 feet, as well. The market also established curbside pickup with their reopening, where shoppers can order ahead and have their items ready to pick up, or even delivered to their cars.
All of these changes have been important steps in protecting the community.
“Because it’s outdoors, I feel like it’s a safer space for product purchasing than going into an enclosed retail space,” Cary said.
For Cary, the reopening was vital for community members and local businesses alike.
“We are providing an essential service in that we are providing people with good, wholesome food in a safe environment.”
For local businesses, the Market has provided a large boost in income and sales. Cary explains that farmers’ markets across the state did 50-100% better business-wise this past year as opposed to other years. Some of the vendors at the Meridian Farmers’ Market saw a substantial sales increase during the pandemic.
Nick Neveau, franchise owner of the Lansing-based paella food truck and catering service, Fire and Rice, was one of the vendors who experienced this increase in sales.
“We’ve done Farmers’ Markets all over the states and the best, most successful Farmers’ Market for us just so happens to be the Meridian Market as far as sales go,” Nevaeau said. “Our sales in the market were up 30-35% in the last year.”
The market not only benefits community members and businesses but the township as a whole. Kati Adams, Park and Land Preservation Superintendent for Meridian Township, said that the market is a big draw to the area.
“In its new location, the Marketplace on the Green has now become an attraction itself, Adams said. “More and more people want to shop local and support local businesses as well as local farmers, and the Farmer’s Market provides that opportunity.”