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Strawberries will be among the products for sale at this week’s Hernando Farmers Market on the city’s Town Square. The market will operate in a modified form for the first weeks to allow for social distancing and with safety measures to combat COVID-19.

The Hernando Farmers Market, known as being among the best of its type in the country, will open for the first time the season on Saturday, May 2, however, it will open in a modified form, said Gia Matheny, Farmers Market Director and City of Hernando Community Development Director.

“It will not be business as usual,” Matheny said in a news release. “We will still be ramping up for our local farm-fresh foods, however, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 we are modifying our market at this time to allow for the sale of farm products and foods permitted by the state and FDA. Cottage food and craft vendors will return to the market once the CDC and state guidelines are relaxed.”

Matheny said the Farmers Market is able to operate as it is considered an essential business. Hours of operation for the market Saturday will be from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on the Hernando Town Square.

The market serves a dual purpose: to provide accessible and nutritious foods for the community and also be an essential opportunity for farmers and food producers.

The Hernando Farmers Market also doubles SNAP/EBT to be used to purchase additional fruits and vegetables. The program is offered at the market table located at the front of the DeSoto County Courthouse.

Shoppers without cash can also swipe their credit/check card at the market table for other tokens which can be redeemed by all vendors. Among the products being made available will be strawberries, carrots, radishes, greens, and other cool weather produce as well as milk, meat, honey, and plants.

“The market is an asset to our city,” said Hernando Mayor Tom Ferguson, “It provides an outlet for our local farmers to sell their Mississippi grown products and it supports our local economy, especially during this time of uncertainty.”

As a Mississippi Certified Market recognized by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, the Hernando Farmers Market has a strong focus on agricultural products.

Among the modifications for the market in its first two weeks of operation will be a focus on social distancing.

Market staff will ask shoppers to prioritize essential food purchasing and eliminate social gatherings. Handwashing and sanitizer pump stations will be set up for shoppers and vendors, blue traffic cones will be located 6-feet behind each table, and vendors will be assigned stall locations with additional space in between each to allow for social distancing.

As the guidelines are relaxed, the market will return to full capacity with cottage food and craft vendors.

Matheny said that for more information, check out the Hernando Farmers Facebook page and new website http://www.cityofhernando.org/services/farmers-market with an interactive list of vendors, a product search and interactive map to assist shoppers when looking for a vendor.