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Farmers markets in Bozeman are preparing to introduce new social distancing and sanitation guidelines as they open this month.

Salal Huber-McGee, director of the Bozeman Farmers Market, formerly called the Bogert Farmers Market, thought in January the biggest challenge for planning this year’s market would be figuring out where it would take place.

This March, Huber-McGee realized the bigger challenge for organizing this year’s market would be figuring out how to make it safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bogert Park Pavilion roof collapsed due to heavy snow in March 2019, forcing Huber-McGee to move the market to Lindley Park. She’d been thinking about renaming the market to the Bozeman Farmers Market, so the move provided her with the opportunity.

Jon Henderson, Bozeman’s strategic services director, said the city anticipates work on the pavilion will begin in early June and continue through most of the summer. He estimated the city would be able to consider pavilion reservations by mid-September.

Huber-McGee said because of ongoing roof repairs, the 2020 Bozeman Farmers Market will remain at Lindley Park. The first market is set to take place June 16, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The market will continue on Tuesdays at the same time until Sept. 8.

“We’ve been working with the Gallatin County health department to come up with a plan,” Huber-McGee said. “We’re going to do what we think will make people feel most comfortable.”

Huber-McGee said vendors at the market will wear masks, and hand sanitizer will be available in all booths. Booths will be spaced at least 6 feet apart and there will be fewer vendors — likely between 40 and 50, according to Huber-McGee.

Huber-McGee said customers should wear masks, though it won’t be required.

Kristi Wetsch, the Gallatin Valley Farmers Market manager, said she’s also been working with the Gallatin City-County Health Department and other farmers markets to ensure this year’s market is safe for vendors and the public.

The first Gallatin Valley Farmers’ Market of 2020 is set to take place June 20, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. The market will continue on Saturdays at the same time until Sept. 12.

Wetsch said this year vendors at the Gallatin Valley Farmers Market will be required to wear masks, and customers won’t be allowed to bag produce themselves. Big groups will be separated so customers and vendors stay 6 feet apart. No picnic tables or benches will be available, she said.

About 200 vendors typically attend the market, but this year that number will be cut in half. She said vendors can still sell arts and crafts, though customers will not be able to touch any products. Hand washing or hand sanitizing stations will be set up, and vendors will be required to wear gloves.

Wetsch said she and other organizers were struggling to decide whether to open markets this year but ultimately decided to go through with plans in early May.

According to Grow Montana, a food policy coalition devoted to promoting sustainable Montana-owned food production, processing and distribution, the Montana Department of Agriculture and the governor’s office in March decided to exempt farmers markets from Gov. Bullock’s ban on social gatherings.

“Grow Montana provided guidance and recommendations of how the governor’s office should proceed in regarding farmers markets as essential businesses,” Maura Henn, coordinator for the Grow Montana Food Policy Council, said in an email. She said Grow Montana advocated for farmers markets to be considered essential in order to provide Montanans with locally grown food and agriculture products.

Henn said many farmers markets across the state participate in the Double SNAP Dollars program, which helps low income people buy nutritious food. “We wanted to make sure that everyone in the state who wants healthy foods has access, including those who receive SNAP benefits,” she said.

Huber-McGee said she and Wetsch have been referencing guides from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and Gallatin City-County Health Department and attending meetings to plan safety measures.

“I think everyone’s really excited. We’re pretty lucky,” Huber-McGee said. “If we’re successful, we’ll lead the crusade.”

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.