The "Essential" Lodi Certified Farmers Market — featuring local farmers and food vendors — will open for the first time on Thursday, May 14 in the parking lot shared by First Baptist Church of Lodi and Millswood Middle School.

The new market has been organized as a temporary replacement for the Downtown Lodi Farmers Market, which is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will not permanently take the place of the Thursday evening tradition.

“We love Downtown. We are part of Downtown — we’re in the middle of Downtown. And we’ll come back to Downtown when we’re allowed to,” said Pat Patrick, president and CEO of the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce.

But until then, the chamber wanted to do something to keep the farmers market going — and ensure Lodi residents have the ability to buy fresh, locally grown produce.

The location change allows the market to spread out for customer safety, leaving 10 to 20 feet between each booth and plenty of space for lines where customers can stand six feet apart.

Along with the new location, the market see a few other big changes.

For now, because non-essential business has been limited in California, only produce and food items will be for sale. There will be no musical entertainment, nor will there be a beer or wine garden.

The time has also seen a temporary change, to 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Thursday, so that residents, especially seniors, can do their shopping before the day gets too hot.

Another new feature is a miniature hiring fair, kept separate from the food vendors.

“There are a lot of businesses right now that have openings,” Patrick said.

The chamber will invite employment agencies that are currently hiring to give information to any job seekers who stop by while at the market. Most will be looking for skills workers such as welders or bookkeepers, Patrick said.

One last change: Shoppers will be encouraged to take their shopping and meals home rather than hanging out and socializing. The number of shoppers allowed in the market at any one time will be limited for safety, Patrick added.

“There is no eating at the farmers market. It will all be to-go meals,” said Elisa Bubak, the chamber’s director of communications.

No samples will be allowed.

Despite the temporary changes, the "Essential" Lodi Certified Farmers Market will continue to feature annual favorites, including Hummus Heaven, Rosa’s Bakery and Cheese Central. There will also be a selection of food trucks, though customers will only be allowed to order takeaway meals.

First Baptist will even be offering coffee, Patrick said.

Shoppers will also still be able to take their pick of the fresh produce, although only the vendors will be able to touch each item until it is paid for.

“They have to point, and the gloved farmer will pick it up and put it in a sack for them,” Patrick said.

Each booth will have a dedicated cashier, who will handle only bagged or packaged items and cash exchanges, he said.

All of the rules will be clearly posted at each booth, and shoppers entering the market will get printouts with the same information, Patrick said.

While the chamber is excited to bring this new version of the farmers market to Lodi, the team also hopes that it will only be for a short time, and that they will be able to bring back the traditional Downtown Lodi Farmers Market quickly.

“We love that and we can’t wait to bring it back,” Bubak said.

In the meantime, Lodians are invited to come and support local farmers.

“It’s a great opportunity to come down, enjoy the morning cool breeze, shop for some essential food — vegetables, fruit — and if you’re looking for a job, just see what’s out there,” Patrick said.

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