Bozeman Farmers Market

Josh Chance helps a customer with her produce at the Chance Farms stand, part of the Bozeman Farmers' Market, on Tuesday evening.

BOZEMAN, Mont. - Even in the middle of a pandemic, farmers' markets are an important part of business for small growers. The events normally mark the beginning of summer in Montana, but things went a little different in Bozeman this week.

On Tuesday evening, six tents went up in the parking lot of Heebs Fresh Market after rain canceled the Bozeman Farmers' Market - which was set to take place at Lindley Park - for the first time in its history.

The move was a last minute save that only happened thanks to the quick thinking of market organizers and Heebs owner Mitch Bradley.

"I got a call from one of the organizers," says Bradley, "and she said she's trying to come up with ways to help [the farmers] and so she said, 'Can we even set up in your parking lot?' and I said, 'You bet! Let's go for it.'"

Some of the farmers for Tuesday's market had already picked their produce by the time the event was canceled, and Bradley knows those vegetables have a shelf life after they're out of the ground.

"It's got a time limit on it. It's gonna die quickly," he explains. "And so I thought - why not give them an opportunity to sell it and be in front of our store and help them out?"

The decision was a hit for both Heebs customers and the vendors themselves. One vendor, Kirsten Taylor, sells body butter, baked goods and granola as the owner of Annasdotter.

"[It's] all stuff that we like to eat at home and wanted to share with other people," she explains.

Tuesday was the first time the new business owner ever sold her products.

"It's been super busy," Taylor says. "Unexpected for it to be this busy. But I think if we were at Lindley it would have been less so."

When it gets back to normal, the Bozeman Farmers' Market may be a little different than you're used to this year, part of efforts to make it a safe experience for vendors and shoppers.

You'll see socially distanced booths, more pre-packaged and individually packaged foods, and no seating area for hot foods, among other changes. The changes come right down the change in your pocket: vendors are asked to round out their prices to avoid using coins. Some are also taking Venmo and other digital payment options.

After a long time apart, farmers' markets are a welcome start to the summer in Montana.

"I think they're important just because it brings community together," says Taylor. "Like you know, we've all been stuck in our houses for the last three months and so to be able to go forward with this and have people out together I think is important."

The Bozeman Farmers' Market (formerly Bogert Farmers' Market) is set to have its first full market next Tuesday at 5 PM in Lindley Park.

The Gallatin Valley Farmers' Market is planned to kick off its summer season on Saturday morning at the Haynes Pavilion in the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.

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