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Benton Harbor Farmer's Market reopens

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer deemed farmer’s markets as essential businesses in April, but the Benton Harbor Farmer’s Market decided to wait until July 1 to reopen.

The market is operated by the Berrien County Health Department, which decided to postpone the season until COVID-19 cases flattened more in the county.

“We wanted to give it a couple of extra weeks in the planning process, as well as making sure the case counts were down and that we were in a phase of the governors safe start plan that we could reopen the market,” said Gillian Conrad, communications manager for the Berrien County Health Department.

While county officials deemed it now able  to reopen —safety measures will be taken here too.

“We have entrance and exit so that the flow of the traffic is going on one direction, we’re really encouraging social distancing, there are hand washing stations available and we are encouraging that people wear masks while shopping - it’s not a requirement but it is encouraged,” said Conrad.

These decisions are bringing peace to the vendors as well.

“Most of the people coming into the stand have been following guidelines,” said Amber Rodriguez with Sommerfeldt’s Farm Market “We have sanitizer everywhere, we’re wearing gloves, we have signs for the social distancing and I think that those rules are necessary.”

While some vendors chose to sit today out — for one, they’re setting up shop for the first time despite the pandemic.

“We’re in the process of putting together a community garden and we’ve been blessed with a lot of tomato plants and had a bit too many to put in the garden there, so we decided to come over here to see if some people could use them,” said Terry Trecartin with Harbor of Hope Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Even though officials found it necessary to wait, they were eager to continue bringing fresh produce to Benton Harbor.

“This is a really important market as it provides fresh, affordable, locally grown fruits and vegetables for many residents, especially in the Benton Harbor area, who don’t have a lot of options for fresh produce,” said Conrad.

Plus, Conrad says there’s one feature at the Benton Harbor Farmer’s Market that sets it apart.

“We do accept Michigan BRIDGE cards as well as WIC and Senior Project Fresh coupons,” said Conrad. “If you have a Michigan BRIDGE card you can actually double your spending power with a program called Double Up Food bucks. We have that again this summer, so if you’d like to spend say $4 on your BRIDGE card we’ll actually give you $8 to spend, so you can double your spending power or think of everything as 50% off.”

The Benton Harbor Farmers Market is funded through a grant from United Way and Spectrum Health.

It runs every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through September.

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