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FARMINGTON — Unlike many summer events, the kickoff of the 2020 Farmington Growers Market was never in question as the coronavirus pandemic led to cancellations.

New Mexico State University's San Juan County Agricultural Extension Agent Bonnie Hopkins explained that growers markets provide an essential service — access to fresh food. And with the double-up program that allows people who receive SNAP benefits to purchase twice as much food at the Growers Market, it can be a key place for low-income people to get healthy food.

"This is the only place that they could do that," she said.

But the COVID-19 pandemic meant this year's market had a few noticeable changes, including marked entrances with hand sanitizer and soap and water. There were chalk markers on the ground to indicate where people should stand in line. Everyone wore masks and customers were not able to sample products as they had in the past.

Hopkins said both the vendors and customers were respectful of the new rules, and the first market was a success.

"It's been a great first day," she said.

She anticipates a larger market next week, with four to five additional vendors.

The market is limited to operating at 25% capacity, but the market has a large capacity. Hopkins said during the peak of the market season it will be limited to fewer than 500 people.

The market offered a variety of products including granola, flowers, salsa, fresh produce, beef and kettle corn.

Four Corners Kettle Corn returned for its third year.

"We absolutely love being here," said Nancy Olivarez as she filled a bag of kettle corn to sell.

The Farmington Growers Market is the first to start in San Juan County, but it won't be the only one.

Kirtland starts its market on Monday, July 6, and the Tuesday Farmington market will follow the next day. Aztec's market begins July 8 and Bloomfield will start its market up on July 9. The Shiprock Market, which will operate on Saturdays and Wednesdays, will start Aug. 15.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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