MOUNT VERNON — Opening day of the Mount Vernon Farmers Market had just eight farmers, but that number is expected to grow as more produce becomes available and the market adjusts to its new social distancing format.

The market is allowing up to 25 customers in at once, asking they wear masks, and is providing hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer. Only vendors are allowed to handle produce, and reusable bags are prohibited.

Market manager Tia Entrikin said up to 17 vendors will be permitted. That reduced number is to allow for adequate social distancing of at least six feet between booths.

She said the plan is to phase in hot food vendors, and provide an option for online sales and curbside pickup for those selling nonessential items.

Miriam Garrote, owner of Baldham Farms in Sedro-Woolley — which raises cows, pigs, chickens and lambs — said business had been good on Saturday between online pre-orders and walk-up customers.

The farm relies on farmers markets for customers and word-of-mouth referrals.

“We’re not big enough to sell in (grocery) stores, so farmers markets are the best way to bring products to customers,” Garrote said.

She said since the pandemic began, the farm has seen increased interest in locally sourced foods, which she attributes to challenges with the supply chain.

Schuh Farms, west of Mount Vernon, was selling fresh rhubarb and asparagus, and fresh-baked pies and other baked goods.

Employee Maegan Ashby, a student at Washington State University, said this is her fourth season working for Schuh Farms. She finished the spring semester remotely and began another season working for the farm.

“Working is nice because I get to stay busy and see members of the community,” she said. “Everyone is so excited to see you.”

Some vendors were only allowed to sell some of their goods, due to restrictions on nonessential businesses.

Mimi Van Slyke of Mimi’s Garden & Apothecary was offering vegetable and herb starts and flowers, but had to leave at home her essential oils and soaps that are a part of the apothecary side of her business.

She said while the market is significantly smaller this year, business had been steady on Saturday.

“It’s nice to see people I know from the market and being outside and breathing fresh air,” Van Slyke said.

She said she encourages people to support small businesses through shopping local rather than at large chain stores.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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