Iowa City is launching an online farmers market with drive-through pick-up

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Avanti Foods cheeses at the Iowa City Farmers Market, Saturday, June 15, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The opening day of the Iowa City Farmers Market has been pushed to July 4, because of COVID-19. But starting on Saturday, May 9, people will still be able to get fresh fruit, vegetables and other market staples at Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp when the city launches its online version of the market, featuring drive-through pick-up.

To offer this limited-personal-contact version of the market, Iowa City Parks and Recreation is partnering with Field to Family, the Iowa City-based nonprofit that helps connect people in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area with locally produced fresh food.

“The way that we see this happening is that people place their orders online and they’ll be given an order number,” Iowa City Farmer Market Coordinator Tammy Neumann told Little Village. “Staff and volunteers will fill those orders, putting items into a box with that number on — although anything that’s frozen or has to be kept cold will be keep separately until it is picked up.”

A market customer will drive into the parking ramp and hand a worker the order number.

“We’ll find it and then ask them to pop open their trunk,” Neumann said. “Or we’ll put in their backseat or hand it to them through the window, whichever works best so there’s the least amount of contact as possible.”

The drive-through pick-ups will be done once a week on Saturdays. Exact hours haven’t been established yet, but vendors will be delivering their goods in the morning, so pick-ups will be later in the day.

Ordering will be done through Field to Family’s website. Neumann said invitations to participate in the online market were sent to farmers market vendors on Friday.

Although the idea for a drive-through service originally began as a way to offer people fresh food and support local farmers during the delay in opening the traditional market, plans call for the drive-through option to continue even after in-person shopping resumes.

“It would give these vendors another outlet to sell their product,” Neumann said. She added it would also provide a shopping option for people still apprehensive about public gatherings.

There are plans to make adjustments to allow for more social distancing once the Iowa City Farmers Market reopens at the Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp in July. Vendors booths will be moved and an empty booth will be placed in between each vendor. Creating a one-way path through the market and limiting the number of customers allowed into the ramp are also under consideration, Neumann said.

Field to Family is working with vendors to write descriptions of their products for the online market. A date for the start of online ordering has not yet been announced.

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