Laura Lencioni, chair of the farmers market commission, called a virtual meeting of the commission to order on Thursday, May 7. The meeting came on the heels of a contentious discussion surrounding communication issues between village staff and market commissioners at the May 4 village board meeting.

Despite the rough lead-up, all participants came prepared to move forward with plans for the 2020 farmers market season.

Commissioners spent the better part of the meeting asking clarifying questions about the plans for the market with market manager, Colleen McNichols, village staff liaison Cameron Davis, and Director of Public Health, Mike Charley, offering information freely in response.  Discussions focused on the flow of the market, support staff needs, concerns about disruptions to residents and the new pre-order and pick up program the market plans to offer.

Commissioners emphasized the need to tap into appropriate messaging through social media and the press to educate the public about the new market layout. Plans indicate the walking market will operate in a U-shaped design south of Lake Street between Scoville and East Avenues. The number of people allowed into the market will be limited and the same equation used to determine grocery store capacity will be applied to the farmers market.

“It’s about training and encouraging people to follow the system Mike [Charley] has put in place.” said Davis.

Information about support staff will be clearer in the coming weeks. Despite the commission’s recommendation the market would require “two to three additional staff members” to spread out through the larger market, Davis confirmed no additional market assistants will be hired.

“The decision has been made not to hire the assistant that she [McNichols] has had previously,” said Davis. “That is a decision that comes out of the manager’s office.”

McNichols suggested there will be an incredible demand for pre-order and pick up at the market. Pre-order and pick will be done through the third-party app, “What’s Good” and volunteers will aggregate the orders for distribution. Orders will be limited in the first weeks of the season to prevent the program volunteers from being overwhelmed and pick-ups will take place between 9 a.m. and noon in the Pilgrim Church parking lot.

“I think the demand will be even more than we can meet so I have been advised to take it slow and keep it manageable,” said McNichols. “We can build from there.”

And yes, there will be donuts.

“We are definitely going to participate,” said Jim Petertil of Pilgrim Church. “I think that possibly as we speak there are people in the kitchen at the church trying to set up six-feet of distance between mixers and fryers, so all those people are not shoulder to shoulder. We are definitely enthusiastic about this.”

The Oak Park Farmers Market is scheduled to open on Saturday, May 30 from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and operate through the last Saturday in October barring any COVID-19 related adjustments.

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