Wausau winter market moves outside, selling locally-grown food at a safe distance

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- The Wausau Winter Farmer’s Market was open and bustling Saturday.
When the Boys and Girls Club cancelled all of its non-essential events, the market moved its operation outside to Whitewater Music Hall’s parking lot.

Customers shop at Farm Time Out Aquaponics (WSAW Photo).

It's finding itself adaptable to a time when grocery stores’ supply chains may end up threatened, and people are trying to limit contact.

“We fall under the guideline of a grocery store, since we are providing food to the community,” said Mary Sandrini, market manager and farmer at Ninepatch.

Vendors are staying a parking space apart, and most are wearing gloves. Sandrini says they have a hand-washing station available, among other changes to encourage healthy shopping.

“If a customer is going to purchase something, I show them the product, and I don’t take their money, I put that into a jar, which then gets put into a dryer when I get home,” said Holden Flaig, market president and farmer.

Sandrini says they’re used to encouraging a hands-on experience with their food. Keeping customers away from engaging with the product is an adjustment.

“People want to come behind our stand and go through our coolers, which normally we’re all about, but we can’t do that now. So it’s really trying to get customers to think a different way about how they’re interacting with the world around them,” she said.

With concerns over the spread of COVID-19, big stores could mean more hands and more travel in the chain from farm to plate.
“It’s taking care of all the customers, it’s taking care of the farmers where we touch their product, we don’t have other customers touching it and putting it back,” said Flaig.

“It’s me and my partner, my other worker here, we’re the only ones that are touching these packages, and I think that really helps. We’re able to contain and keep it in an environment as sterile as we can,” said Sandrini.

Flaig and Sandrini made the case for why shopping for locally-grown food is a safe option, especially at a time when customers are trying to limit contact.

“We really look at our local farming community, and our local producers in this community, we realize how much is actually here, and how much we don’t really have to go very far to get what we want,” Sandrini said.

The market will stay at Whitewater Hall until it usually wraps up at the end of April.