The weekly market has been closed since March 13, partially due to federal social distancing guidance and various government stay-at-home orders issued this spring.
The market's return this weekend is part of the first phase of its reopening plan, featuring only food vendors and farmers' booths. Bruce Cunningham, a member of the Grogan's Mill Village Association that sponsors the weekly event, said the market will also be set up in a new arrangement with additional precautions in place.
"Before, basically we had lines of tents pointing inwards and people circulated between the tents and you could walk from one side of the market to the other side," Cunningham said. "We are going to have the vendors park their trucks next to their tents to provide separation, and all of the tents will be facing out. So now the market will basically be a rectangle with the customers on the outside and the vendors on the inside."
Cunningham said distancing markers and several hand sanitizer stands will be set up throughout the market. Face masks will also be required for visitors and vendors.
Additional phase one precautions listed on The Woodlands Farmer's Market Facebook page include a restriction on children, pets, open food or drinks, and gatherings of more than two people at market. Online preorders are encouraged if possible, while in-person transactions are limited to payment by card or exact change. A "you touch it, you buy it" policy will also be in place.
Cunningham said the market's vendor list may be expanded to include non-food sellers this spring, while some of its previously-offered activities may not return until later this summer.
“It will be different, and then we will see how it works. And we will bring in more vendors probably in two weeks assuming that the number of cases has stabilized in the county and we haven’t had that many problems. But it will be a while before we get back to where we used to be," he said. "I suspect it will be August or September before we’re back at that place.”
While the market has been closed through the start of spring, Cunningham said his village association has worked to promote both established vendors at the event and the tenants of the Grogan's Mill Village Center.
Cunningham said the village association has continued to advocate for the shopping plaza due to vacancies there and the loss of its anchor Randalls store earlier this year. Initiatives include the continued operation of the market and sponsored programs such as a recent voucher partnership with local schools that promoted several restaurants in the center.
"We are very concerned about the Grogan's Mill shopping center," Cunningham said. "We printed up $1,000 in coupons to these restaurants so that the principals could give them to families and families could go and buy food from those restaurants."
More information about the farmer's market, including a full vendor list, may be found at www.grogansmill.org/fmabout.