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Aiken County Farmers Market reopens with new coronavirus measures

As the Aiken County Farmers Market returns after a hiatus due to the coronavirus, local residents patiently adjusted to the implemented changes designed to make their shopping experience safer.

Thursday's reopening saw five vendors and a slew of excited shoppers who didn't mind having to observe social distancing standards to get to their favorite products.

Vendors were spaced at every other table with only one shopper at a time allowed at their stands with X's noting a 6-foot distance.

It's a practice that will continue at least until July, said Mary Rosbach, tourism supervisor with the City of Aiken.

For vendors like Claire Ramey of Ramey Farm, the return was well-received and more convenient than driving her orders back and forth from her farm in Salley to Aiken during the market's shutdown.

"(Customers) would message me on Facebook, and I would meet them in (a local) parking lot to hand over (my) eggs," Ramey said.

Ramey has been attending the farmers market for over 14 years, and even during the pandemic plans to support the market before a grocery store. 

"I've always felt like this was a much safer place to be shopping anyway," she said. "It's open-air, and we have more (air) circulating."

Vendor Brittany Whisnant grows flowers and herbs for her stand and said she was looking forward to making a profit after her business was halted for so long.

"I've lost revenue of what I make selling flowers (after) giving bouquets away to my neighbors," she said. "It makes them very happy, but at the same time that was (product) I could have sold at the market had it been open." 

As someone who manages asthma, the thought of being infected with the coronavirus is particularly concerning for her and her family, leading her to limit her time in public and at the market all the more.

"I've definitely been staying home a lot … but I like how they have (the market) set up right now," Whisnant said. "I still get a little fussy about people not wearing their masks right."

With distance a necessity even in the open market, vendor spaces at the farmers market will be in short supply for the next several weeks and will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and leaving room for only "necessity" sellers instead of crafters, Rosbach said. 

"Saturday will be the test (to fill) only 23 out of the 45 booths here right now," she said. 

The Aiken County Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays and 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays at 115 Williamsburg St. NE.

Shoppers are recommended to bring their own masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

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