The Haymaker Farmers’ Market has been a staple of the Kent community since 1992 — housed under the Haymaker Parkway bridge, it’s grown from a few tables to over 50 vendors across its year-long operation schedule.

And while the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on certain parts of the economy, local agriculture is in a renaissance, and the market is as busy as ever.

“We’ve seen our numbers increase,” said Andrew Rome, the market manager. “There’s more people who are going to the local farms to buy directly who are coming to the farmers’ market.” 

The vendors agree that while things are different, they’re glad to be a part of the market and have seen success so far this season.

Haymaker Market 1

A table of fall vegetables is just one of dozens at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market on October 10, 2020.

“We’ve had a fantastic year — this year has been challenging,” said farmer Matt Herbruck of Birdsong Farm. “There’s logistical challenges, but we have had a lot of support from all the towns that we do markets in.” 

Staying open amid the pandemic does come with challenges — organizers have to account for social distancing and best practices that complicate the way the market usually operates.

“We’ve had to reinvent ourselves,” said Rome. “We worked with the city of Kent and the Kent Health Department to come up with a plan that makes the market as safe as possible for customers, for vendors.” 

Both the customers and vendors at the farmers’ market are taking precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as their mask policy and hand sanitizer stations at entries and exits.

“We’re really focused on making the wonderful food, the work of our vendors available to as many people as possible. So we’re promoting food access, and we know that’s a real need right now,” said Rome.

The vendors say they were willing to do whatever it took to stay open, because they know how important it is to have access to good food — especially during a pandemic.

“Local access, local food access is incredibly important,” said Lizette Barton, president of the Haymaker Farmers’ Market board. “If you remember at the beginning when all this stuff happened, there were food shortages, you couldn’t get kind of basic things.” 

Haymaker Market 2

Members of the Kent community spend the fall morning of October 10, 2020 at the Haymaker Farmers' market underneath the Haymaker Parkway bridge.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of questions about whether trucks were going to be rolling and things were going to be moving in a normal sense. So I think a lot of people wanted to get more local in terms of their sourcing,” said Herbruck.

The market allows customers to make sure their food is safe by talking and connecting with farmers — from a distance. 

“When you are buying from someone direct, you can talk to them directly about their practices. And so it’s just a lot more trustworthy. It’s also a way to support your local economy,” said Barton. So instead of giving all your money to Big Ag and farms that are hundreds of miles away, you can directly support a family that lives here in your community. It’s incredibly important.”

Those involved with the market say that they’re happy to comply with the precautions to help keep Haymaker up and running.

“Kent is such a warm, friendly, spirited place, and it’s great to be able to see people in person,” said frequent market attendee Katie Grigg.

“We love the market,” said Rome. “And so we want to make it work for everybody.”

Haymaker Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays through the rest of the year. For more information about the market, visit haymakermarket.com.

Maddy Haberberger is a TV2 reporter. Contact her at mhaberbe@kent.edu.

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Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.

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