For the past 40 years, Judy Owsowitz of Terrapin Farm in Whitefish hasn’t missed a farmers market season.
But this year, she’s choosing not to attend the weekly markets in Whitefish and Kalispell in an effort to curb the COVID-19 spread and keep her staff and customers safe.
“It feels funny,” Owsowitz said. “I haven’t even fired up the plant truck. But it also feels like the right thing to do right now. I’m not saying, ‘don’t go to farmer’s markets when they open up,’ but we have an alternative.”
Terrapin Farm’s alternative is a roadside market, where Owsowitz sells seeds and plants out of a little red barn set up on the side of Farm to Market Road while maintaining social distancing.
Customers can browse flowers, berries, vegetables, perennials and seeds and place checks or cash in a drop box. Owsowitz also has a Venmo code listed in the barn that buyers can use to pay electronically. No credit cards are accepted due to the contact that’s required.
Owsowitz and her crew can be found working in the field roughly 300 feet away from the barn. If customers have questions, she encourages them to call her on the phone or they can yell across the farm using their “field voice.”
“We don’t want people to just grow gardens and not have answers to their questions and fail,” she said. “We want to help people succeed.”
To help people succeed, Owsowitz only sets out plants for sale that are appropriate for planting at that particular time. Right now, she has onions, leeks, lettuces, kale and chard out, which can withstand colder climates. She’ll wait to sell tomatoes until later in the spring when they are more likely to survive.
Now in the roadside market’s third week, Owsowitz says she’s seen a steady stream of business.
“It’s been busy,” she said. “It’s been pretty steady … the most I’ve ever seen is two cars at once and people have been super respectful. Our big goal is to make it safe and make it possible for them to grow a garden and not have to go to the farmers market.”
While Owsowitz believes the vendors at farmers markets will work hard to keep the public safe and prevent COVID-19’s spread this year, she prefers to avoid going entirely.
“It’s a big change for us,” she said. “Farming is hard work in itself without trying to figure out new marketing systems. The big thing is being able to get the food to the people.”
Terrapin Farm’s roadside market is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The market is closed on Sundays.
For more information, visit www.localharvest.org/terrapin-farm-M54077.