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University District Farmers Market
University District Farmers Market. (Image: Sarah Schu / Neighborhood Farmers Markets)

Ballard & University District Farmers Markets: Know Before You Go

It is with cautious optimism that farmers markets in Seattle are opening again, after shutting down completely due to the coronavirus. The University District Farmers Market reopened for a test run last Saturday, April 18, and while things looked different, all went well and so the market will be up and running again this weekend. Hopefully as conditions improve, more markets will be allowed to reopen as well, but nobody knows for sure.

“The city is issuing permits week by week, so nothing is certain yet,” said Sarah Schu, Marketing & Development Manager for Neighborhood Farmers Markets. “We are being judged week by week, but we can confirm that we are open for business this coming weekend, April 25.”

And they are not alone. The Ballard Farmers Market will reopen as well this Sunday, but in both cases, it is not business as usual.

Old Fashioned Markets, New Fangled Twists

Both markets would like shoppers to re-think their visits to be more like a trip to the grocery store rather than a social outing. This doesn’t mean that visiting the markets can’t still be fun. They are encouraging “big smiles” which might be difficult since all vendors and staff members are required to wear masks at all times. However, masks are optional for shoppers.

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For now, the markets are smaller offering 30 or less vendors at each location, which is about half of what you would normally see during normal operation. In addition, the number of people allowed in the markets at one time is limited too. Just 60 people at one time for the University District’s market and only a few walk-in shoppers will be allowed at Ballard’s “drive-through” market.

The Do’s and Don’ts

For the short-term, this is a no-nonsense operation. No lollygagging allowed. It’s get in, get your produce and get out. Social distancing is strongly enforced. Vendor booths at the University District’s markets are spaced ten feet apart and shoppers are asked to respect the six-foot bubble rule. Shoppers are not allowed to touch any items, there is no sampling of any kind, busking is not allowed and Fido should stay home. For that matter, these aren’t really family events right now. This all might sound harsh, but it isn’t meant to be. It’s safety first and it just makes sense.

The Drive-Through Experiment

The folks at Ballard’s market are taking a whole different approach this season, and encouraging their shoppers to order items ahead of time. This weekend’s lineup of vendors include 10 produce providers, nine protein vendors, a bakery, a couple of cheese shops, honey farms and even some pre-made food vendors. They are all listed on the pre-order packet where you can pre-pay for your goods as well.

Here’s the scoop for this Sunday: Customers will drive north to south on Ballard Ave. N.W. The vendors will all be lined up single file on the east side of the street, and shoppers will drive up to each booth, shut off their engine and communicate with the vendor from six feet away. Once an order is fulfilled, the vendors will place the order on a “pick-up table” where you’ll be able to reach out of your car window and load up.

“The safety and health of our shoppers, farmers, and staff is [Seattle Farmers Market Association’s] primary concern as we re-open the Ballard Farmers Market,” says the SFMA.

When and Where to Find the Markets

Be sure to visit the markets' websites for the most up-to-date information.