With fewer COVID restrictions, will more people go to farmers markets? Milford organizers hope so.

MILFORD — Last summer, as the state struggled with an economic slowdown and pandemic-related restrictions, business boomed at the Milford farmers markets. This year, organizers hope to do even better.

“I believe it will bring more of an attendance, and I believe people won’t be as afraid,” said Maryjo Downs, the market master.

Even though there were many restrictions in 2020, the market still had good attendance because people wanted something to do, according to Emily Kate Swet, one of the organizers.

“The market provides a reason to leave the house,” she said. “People can meet up and shop together, have a snack or a meal and stroll around downtown.”

The Downtown Farmers Market is open at Wasson Field Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon starting June 12, with early shopping starting at 8:30 a.m. for seniors and those who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems. The Walnut Beach Farmers Market is held Thursday evenings from 4 to 7 p.m. starting June 9.

Downs said running the markets has been quite an experience.

“We’ve got the musicians in line, we’ve got some very good vendors, all the fresh vegetables and fresh eggs, and that’s exciting,” she said. “I’m really focusing on getting local vendors whether it be the veggies, eggs, artisans or baked goods. We are trying very hard to get local here and now. It’s grown in my back yard so to speak.”

Andromeda Marci, of River Crest Farms in Milford, said her experience last year was similar to the market overall, as the farm stayed busy through the pandemic summer. River Crest has been participating in the downtown market since 2015.

“I think people felt more comfortable shopping for their vegetables outside rather than in the stores,” said Marci. “It was really nice to be able to see people because we spend so much time on the farm that being able to go out and interact with other humans was very nice.”

Marci said she also noticed an increase in the number of people visiting the farm and walking through the greenhouse last year.

“There were a lot of restrictions, but we were still very busy,” she said. Even with a steady stream of customers, Marci said last year was still stressful, and she found herself sanitizing “every 10 seconds.”

Marci said she thought more people are going to feel more comfortable going outside this year.

“Many people would still come to the farmer's table to get their vegetables, but I think this will also be good for the other vendors. Because I feel like the non-food things that are there, the people who would normally come out to browse that kind of stuff were erring on the side of caution (in 2020),” she said. “I think with the easement of the restrictions, more people will be able to come out.”

Downs said the markets would continue to do everything possible to help people stay safe.

“I’m working with the local health department to make sure I enforce all the guidelines. We’ll have the sanitation station when you walk in to keep everyone healthy,” she said. “With large crowds, people are anxious, and we don’t want them anxious. I want them to come and be relaxed while they stroll and look at the items.”