Officials are hopeful to usher summer in to the Hub City once again by the Downtown Hattiesburg Farmer’s Market, albeit in a slightly different format because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The market – which is held in partnership with the Downtown Hattiesburg Association and the City of Hattiesburg – will tentatively be held from 3-6 p.m. on Thursdays at Town Square Park until Oct. 8, although an exact starting date has not been set because of the virus.
“The farmer’s market has long been one of those staple events that happens in downtown, and it was heartbreaking for us not to have it open,” said Andrea Saffle, executive director of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association. “We’ve been working really closely with the farmer’s market management to try to find a way to get it back open in a responsible way.
“They just wanted to make sure that we’re being responsible about this, because most of the farmers are older, and a lot of the customers that come are older. So I’ve been in contact with all of the other farmer’s markets and Main Street programs on the Coast, and the coast markets are all open, and Picayune is open. So we’re excited at the opportunity to have the market back open.”
Although the vendor list has not been set, all of the farmers that market officials have talked to have expressed interest in coming back for this year’s event.
Attendees can expect plenty of produce, including blueberries and other in-season fruits and vegetables.
“We will be working to make sure that we have all of our usual farmers to come back,” Saffle said. “There are a few farmers – like Indian Springs – that have some of the other products like soap and things like that, but we’re not inviting the craft vendors to come.
“The plants, produce, fruit, blueberries, lemonade, the popsicles – will be there.”
In keeping with health officials’ guidelines during the pandemic, the crowds will be limited, attendees will be asked to wear masks and the market will offer several hand sanitizing stations. The usual games, music and other activities will not be offered this year.
“We’re encouraging people to come, get your fresh produce, but we’re not trying to promote it as a ‘come and hang out’ kind of thing,” Saffle said. “The farmers will bag the produce for you, so it’s like a no-touch system and you can just point out what you want.
“That way you’re not touching the products. And I’ve got signs printed up that we’re going to put out … telling people what to expect.”