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The opening date of the Forest Grove Farmers' Market has been postponed, and markets in Hillsboro look to adjust.

PMG FILE PHOTO: - The Forest Grove Farmers Market on Main Street between 21st Avenue and Pacific Avenue.It's getting closer to scheduled opening dates for farmers' markets in western Washington County, but as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to grow daily, market managers are adjusting their plans for the season.

Like traditional grocery stores, farmers' markets have been deemed essential services and are exempt from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's emergency bans on public gatherings. Although they offer fresh, nutritional food while directly supporting local growers, farmers' markets are also community gathering places that could be prone to spreading the coronavirus.

Hillsboro Farmers' Markets typically operate in downtown Hillsboro and at Orenco Station from April to November, as well as a market outside Kaiser Permanente Westside Hospital from June to September and a market outside OHSU Tuality Community Hospital from July to mid-August.

Additionally, the Forest Grove-based nonprofit Adelante Mujeres has been running a farmers' market in Forest Grove from May to October since 2005. The nonprofit also has plans to open a new farmers' market outside the Cornelius Public Library for the first time this summer.

"After much consideration and receiving feedback from vendors, partners, and staff, we have decided to postpone the opening of the Forest Grove Farmers' Market until June 3, 2020," said Maribel De Leon, director of microenterprise programs at Adelante. "Our priority for our farmers' market vendors and our customers is twofold: (first to) ensure the health and safety of all, (second to) mitigate small business risks. We want to take on preventive measures to ensure the well-being of all while at the same time prepare the market for it to be a place where customers will come and shop."

De Leon said Adelante Mujeres has not changed its plans to open the new market in Cornelius this July.

The nonprofit has been in communication with city officials in Forest Grove and Cornelius as they monitor updates from public health officials, she said.

"We know that small businesses are being impacted during this time," De Leon said. "Our Microenterprise Team is working with other service providers to find resources that may exist to support the local business owners."

Liz Connor, manager of Hillsboro Farmers' Markets, said board members have not made any changes to market operations nor opening dates, but she added market staff are working to develop plans for people to consistently access market products safely.

PMG FILE PHOTO: - Customers pick out plants at a booth in the Hillsboro Farmers' Market's downtown market."We are working with state and local authorities to identify adaptations to our standard open market format and alternative options like online ordering, delivery, or pre-formed produce boxes and modified hours if our markets are permitted to open," read a statement from Hillsboro Farmers' Markets.

Staff have been communicating with other markets across the West Coast to enhance safety, Hillsboro Farmers' Markets said. Measure could include removing all seating, adding hand-washing stations and encouraging customers not to touch products unless they will purchase them, among other measures.

Hillsboro Farmers' Markets noted in its statement that the market also provides crucial food assistance programs, including $20,000 in assistance in 2019.

"We estimate that in recent years, our market system has directed an estimated $2 million dollars back to farmers and local businesses annually, in addition to providing nutrition assistance to those in need in Hillsboro and greater Washington County," Hillsboro Farmers' Markets said.

Connor said market staff are currently monitoring a survey to vendors about their needs and limitations. The market also recently launched a customer survey.

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