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The first Gallatin Valley Farmers Market of 2020 looked different than past years this Saturday, with vendors spaced out and customers socially distancing under Haynes Pavilion at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.

For Janie and Kenneth Cook, who’ve been selling local honey and beeswax at the farmer’s market for about 40 years, part of what’s made this year different is customers not knowing whether they can come close to vendors’ tables.

Still, Janie said she loves that the Gallatin Valley Farmers Market is big, and everyone can socialize.

Signs throughout the pavilion and on the lawn outside requested that customers not touch the food, soaps, crafts, jewelry and various other items up for sale. Markings on the pavilion floor and flags outside directed customers to stand 6 feet from one another. Vendors and a some customers wore masks.

“It’s a great place to connect with people,” said Marci Gehring, who runs a private meal prep business called For The Heart Foods. She’s been selling breakfast burritos, scones, bars, cookies and wreaths at the Gallatin Valley Farmers Market for 30 years.

Gehring prepares private meals from a food truck in her driveway, but she also sells wreaths and flowers. She said COVID-19 has actually increased her sales, as more customers are seeking delivery.

“We’ve been much busier than ever before,” she said.

For at least 15 years, Ginny Eckhart has sold her hand-painted, repurposed items at the Gallatin Valley Farmers Market. She gets many of the windows, screens and other house furnishings she uses from her sister, who attends auctions in Minnesota. She also obtains them from thrift stores and buildings undergoing construction.

“It [the Gallatin Valley Farmers Market] is a good market for me,” Eckhart said. “It’s very well-organized.”

Though Montana farmers markets are considered essential businesses because many vendors sell locally grown food, vendors selling arts, crafts and jewelry can also sell their products.

Carol Schott, a vendor at this year’s market, sells kitchen towel dresses, which can be hung on stoves and refrigerators. “Most little girls who walk by want a dress for their dolls,” she said.

Schott said she got the idea to make the dresses at a yard sale, where a granddaughter who was cleaning out some sewing materials found the pattern.

Schott started sewing the dresses as a pastime in 2015. It gave her something to do while she was taking care of her husband, who was suffering from dementia at the time, she said.

Now Schott sells her creations at farmers markets and donates them to local charities. She customizes the dresses for holidays and recently found Cat and Griz fabrics in Great Falls. She plans to bring her Cat and Griz dresses to the Brawl of the Wild this fall.

Sarah Friedrich, Gallatin Valley Farmers Market assistant manager, said the market was Bozeman’s first, starting up in 1971. It’s run by Career Transitions Inc., a local nonprofit.

The market was first held at Bogert Park, but was moved to the fairgrounds in 2002. Vendors who participate come from around the valley.

Friedrich said she’s taking on more responsibilities to help Kristi Wetsch, the manager, run the market. Wetsch has been in charge for the last 26 years.

Wetsch said the market participates in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition and Women, Infants and Children programs, which help low-income seniors and low-income women supporting children purchase local produce.

The market usually participates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income families purchase fresh food and produce, but this year it was too difficult because of restrictions related to COVID-19, Wetsch said.

Friedrich loves seeing the same friendly faces at the market every year. “It’s the same team we’ve had for a long time,” she said.

The Gallatin Valley Farmers Market is scheduled to take place every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., until Sept. 12, at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.

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