HELENA — "It just didn't seem feasible for us, at that stage of the game, to move forward."
That's how Helena's Farmer's Market board president Wayne O'Brien described the situation surrounding the Farmer's Market. Following the revocation of the market's COVID-19 safety plan and street permit, the market came to a halt. Following the events in mid-July, O'Brien and the market board submitted multiple plans to Lewis and Clark Public Health, but ultimately said it wasn't going to work this year.
"When we finally, I think, got to a point where we thought we could put something together, that would work. We realized that we just did not have the manpower, the capability," said O'Brien. "Real difficult for us to deal with trying to have a farmers market where you're limited to 250 people for the entire day that you hold the market."
Lewis and Clark Public Health said in a statement to MTN:
"Lewis and Clark Public Health was notified this morning the Helena Farmer’s Market Board has chosen not to proceed with the market this year. Our staff, who have spent a significant number hours researching, consulting, and providing technical assistance are heartbroken to hear this decision. We too, are members of this community and believe the market is an essential part of contributing to a healthy, resilient, strong community. We had hoped for an amended plan that would allow community members access to the wonderful local products our vendors have to offer in a safe environment protective from the virus that causes COVID-19. As always, we remain dedicated to providing the necessary guidance and direction to keep our community safe and healthy. If vendors are looking for alternative ways to continue selling their products outside the market format, we are here to help. Please reach out by calling 457-8900 or emailing email@example.com."
So what happens now? O'Brien said he's hopeful life will return to a true normal by Spring 2021, but in case that doesn't come true, it's back to drawing board.
"We're hoping things will be better next year and I contacted the police department and asked them what the chances are that we could have the street again," said O'Brien. "We will go into planning now. We meet as a board every week and we'll take a look at some alternative approaches, which could include hosting a website and having sites for our vendors on it, where people can shop in and pick up items, which they've done in other parts of the country, at a location that's suitable."
"We've just not been here before, and we're not prepared to be able to do that midseason."