Corrales Growers’ Market is a business still growing through the pandemic.
Bonnie Gonzales has been the president of the market since 1996. She said small food systems, like in Corrales, are healthy and dependable from a food and economic standpoint.
“Some of our vendors who maybe sell to restaurants and sell to co-ops and Whole Foods and different places, it is harder to do that right now,” she said.
The market provides space and support to traditional agricultural economics in Corrales, Gonzales said. Buyers are purchasing directly from local farmers.
“We support the preservation of farmland, the sustainability of family farms and local agricultural production by providing agricultural producers a marketing facility for the sale of their products directly to consumers,” she said.
Gonzales said this is different from grocery stores.
“You go to a grocery store, and this is food that has gone through packaging plants and has traveled on trucks, and it has been handled and processed,” she said.
Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Schalow said places like the growers’ market are doing well because people want locally grown food.
“There is a concern for safety with our food supply nationwide, and having it locally grown is a local alternative that people are preferring at this time,” he said.
This concern is changing consumers’ shopping habits and creating a demand for local growers, Schalow said.
“I think that it is important to understand the food that we are providing is probably the most nutrient-dense food you can get,” Gonzales said. “This is food that has not traveled, that hasn’t been out on a field, been in a truck, been through a processing plant from hundreds of miles away. This is food grown right here from the person you’re buying it from. As a result, this is what we consider to be very, very safe food.”
Although Corrales’ farmers and growers are doing OK through the pandemic, they are not immune to its economic effects, Schalow said.
“Corrales is being hit as every other community is right now for retailers and restaurants. But Corrales has farmers and growers there that are in high demand, so that part of the economy is fine,” he said.
In 2019, Gonzales said, the market reported to the State Farmers Market Association a 79,000 total visitor count. She also reported an income of $878,000 for all producers combined last year.
This year, she expects visitor counts to be down, but not sales, Gonzales said.
The market is encouraging customers to shop alone and adhere to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggestions, like wearing a mask and gloves.
“COVID-19 has affected our daily operation in a lot of ways. Currently, we are operating as a drive-thru market,” she said. “We work directly with the village to understand the chain of command. They are operating under the state rules, and we are operating in conjunction with them to follow what their safety rules are.”
The market will transition to a walk-through market in the future, but will take all the necessary precautions, Gonzales said.
The pandemic has created unexpected costs for the market, like purchasing more disinfect supplies and personal protective equipment for vendors and volunteers, she said.
The Corrales Growers’ Market is a regular federal corporation and not for profit, Gonzales said.
“So our main purpose is to create an income source for the producers,” she said.
The market does fundraisers and sells merchandise like T-shirts and baskets to pay for operations.
“And that is mainly to pay our contractors. With the drive-thru market, we need traffic control and we need a lot of volunteers out there helping just to maintain the day-to-day operation of the market,” she said. “The GoFundMe is kind of a way to supplement that lost income that we had from our fundraising.”
The GoFundMe is at gofundme.com/f/corrales-local-food.
“Our intentions have not changed, whether before the pandemic or now or as we move forward through the pandemic; our mission is the same,” Gonzales said.
Corrales Growers’ Market will have 18 vendors this week and operates every Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon at 500 Jones Road in Corrales.
For more information, visit corralesgrowersmarket.com.