On Saturday, five vendors took part in the Socorro Farmers Market which was held at Plaza Park for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
One of those vendors was Loretta Taylor who turned to making soap and lotion bars at the suggestion of a friend.
“I get bored easily and this keeps me busy,” she said. “After Smiths, I got a few different jobs… but I finally decided to retire and this keeps me busy. I make aprons too.”
Besides keeping her busy, Taylor said she enjoys making the soap and lotion bars because it’s more natural and better for someone’s skin.
Taylor sells her homemade products at the Socorro Farmers Market along with eggs, vegetables and jam.
While there was a steady stream of customers on Saturday, Taylor said there were lines out of the Smiths parking lot last summer when the market first made the transition and then it really slowed down over the winter months.
“The biggest time during COVID-19, I think everybody came together and kind of realized that we need our farmers,” she said. “Because of the sickness, I think it just makes you realize the things that are more important and food is a very important thing. To a lot of people, organic food is very important.”
Socorro Farmers Market manager Brewster Bird said that this year more people will be able to purchase from the vendors at the market and learn why farmers are important.
New Mexico has implemented a new program called Fresh Rx where someone can get a prescription from a physician for fresh produce. A customer would then take the voucher to a farmers market and exchange it for a wooden coin, called beets.
Bird said the program will help the farmers because it is a dollar-for-dollar exchange. The beets are market-specific as they say which market they are from and can only be spent there.
The Socorro Farmers Market is still taking food stamps and is doing the Double Up Food Bucks program.
“If a person who would normally spend SNAP or food stamp dollars at John Brooks or Walmart or other food stores in the area, they can come to the Farmers Market on Saturday and get locally grown produce, fresh eggs, fresh groceries, learning more about our community,” he said.
During the pandemic, the market was held at the Teen Center and in the Smiths parking lot.
Bird said it was a challenge having the market not at Plaza Park because some of the regular customers never made the transition to the other locations.
“It was weird,” Bird said. “There were safety and health concerns, which we tried to meet. I usually have my washing station. What COVID-19 did, was it ramped up our necessity for sanitation. What COVID-19 did was, it separated us from interactions without masks. It isolated us from our regulars.”
During the pandemic, the market was only a drive-through to maintain social distancing and to have COVID-safety protocols in place. The market had to be moved to a parking lot instead of Plaza Park so there would be enough space to spread out and for cars to line up.
According to Bird, there were customers who did not want to go to a drive-through market because they wanted a walk-around market while others preferred the drive-through.
“We had people who liked coming in cars and driving up and getting groceries and then going on their way,” he said.
Darla Broughton, who is one of the vendors, said one of the challenges of the drive-through was the wait time.
“Some people I know said the drive-through was hard because you had to sit and wait in line for a while,” she said. “I went through the drive-through a few times and it was like a 45-minute wait once everything got moving.”
When the market was a drive-through, Taylor said she would put the items she was selling in a basket and then bring them up to people’s cars. She said she is glad to be back at Plaza Park because customers can come up to her table and see the products up close.
“I just think people being able to see things up close, being able to see your product up close, and people like to touch and that’s OK,” she said.
Broughton said she also enjoys being back at Plaza Park because of the one-on-one interactions with the customers.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s nice to be under the shade of the trees and feel like a cohesive community again. We are able to walk up to each other and interact and not just say hi through car windows.”
The market normally has five to 10 vendors and will be held on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Plaza Park.