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Tulsa Farmers Market still in limbo

Posted at 8:02 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-23 00:58:13-04

TULSA, Okla. — While grocery stores have remained open and restaurants continue to welcome back customers, farmer's market vendors are still waiting to return to business in Tulsa.

Gary and Cindy Greenwood are among the farmers losing money as they are caught between being considered essential, but their places to sell are not. 

"Our income is down by about half of what it needs to be because of the market not being open," Cindy said.

Gary said they don't receive any unemployment. Usually they’d be packing up for the Tulsa Farmers Market, but construction on Cherry Street isn’t the reason why vendors aren’t lining the streets this year.

"It has been frustrating and obviously every one is frustrated with how this virus has inconvenienced everyone's lives," said Kris Hutto, the director of Tulsa Farmers Market. "There are so many people who depend on this market to sell enough to survive and to afford fresh and affordable produce for their families."

For farmers like the Greenwoods, COVID-19 has more than inconvenienced them. It’s put their livelihood in danger.

It’s a problem Hutto has been trying to solve since March.

“There’s a prohibition on special events permits and that’s where the conversation just stops," Hutto said. "It is because we are dependent on city streets and a street permit that we are not allowed to be open.”

While in phase two of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic for the city of Tulsa, gatherings over 50 people still are not permitted, which is why the street permit for the Tulsa Farmers Market has not been approved

“We have to include our vendors and our farmers into that number. So, when you think about the number of customers and subtracting that from the number of vendors, it’s just not feasible," Hutto said.

However, Hutto is working with city of Tulsa leaders on changing how outdoor event is classified and how the safe number of people attending the outdoor event that stretches across blocks is quantified.

“Although we do depend on that permit, we are not a festival. We are not a parade. We are actually essential to the food supply," Hutto said. "And when we think of the limit of how many people can be in a space, is it 50 people in 1,000 square feet? Is it 50 people in 20,000 square feet? Where is the line drawn? That’s why we would like to use the fire marshall equation of one person per 36 square feet. We think that makes a lot more sense for space of our size."

At last check earlier Friday, there could possibly be a permit allowed for the farmers market issued during phase three which starts June 1.

For updates on if or when the Tulsa Farmers Market will happen, click here.

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