Amid Closures, ASAP Starts Revamped Farmers Market Saturday

Mar 20, 2020

Small-scale producers who rely on weekly farmers markets for income have found themselves at a sudden loss. 

Markets across Western North Carolina were canceled this week due to COVID-19. 

But the local organization that certifies growers in the region, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, or ASAP, quickly organized a safe alternative for growers and buyers Sat. 

The outdoor market at AB Tech campus’ parking lot won’t look like the typical array of weekend farm stands. 

ASAP Executive Director Charlie Jackson says this new market is designed to protect both buyers and sellers, by maintaining the six feet social distancing recommendation. 

“So we thought about what could be done and determined that there is an ability to create a market that could meet all public health concerns, and be as safe or safer than a grocery store environment, provide farmers with that access to market and get people that access to fresh, locally grown food,” Jackson said. 

Jackson says buyers will drive up in a line and then be instructed to walk through the market offerings, one at a time. Produce will be pre-bagged and priced on tables, at a safe distance from sellers. 

Another notable absence -- the exchange of currency. 

The revamped market relies instead on the honor system. Shoppers are asked to go online to ASAP’s website to pay for their produce when they get home.

"We're relying on honesty, and even hope people will round it up a little bit," Jackson said. "Our main goal is that the farmers get paid." 

ASAP says it works with 900 small farms in the region, many of which rely on markets for income. Jackson says he hopes to continue with the effort in the weeks ahead and possibly expand to other counties. 

Saturday's interim market is from 9am-12pm at AB Tech's Campus in Asheville. A map of the parking lot and logistics can be found here. A listing of local farms offering produce pick-ups and deliveries can be found here.