Farm1

The Schirgs, from left, Jim, Jason and Matthew, stand out in the tomato field at their farm in Abington Township.

Farm1

Social distance comes naturally at the Schirg family’s workplace, their farm on rolling hills in West Abington Twp.

With seed orders filled long before the coronavirus pandemic started, and planting done on schedule, the Schirgs and about two dozen other family farms are ready to bring their produce to market in a few weeks.

The Co-Operative Farmers Market in Scranton should start as usual this year, about the middle of July.

Jim Schirg, 67, of Jim’s Farm Produce has been bringing fresh, locally grown vegetables to the popular market every year since 1972.

Since then, the market at 900 Barring Ave. draws larger and larger crowds every year, he said near the entrance to the tidy 45 acres he plants, tends and harvests with his son, Jason Schirg, and grandson, Matthew.

Just when it opens has not been finalized, but the board of directors is making efforts to keep farmers and their loyal locavores safe. Among other measures, Jason Schirg, the market’s treasurer, said they’ll set up hand sanitizer dispensers around the market.

“Hopefully people come out, and I think they will,” he said.

The board meets this week to set an opening date and finalize plans. They’ll announce them on their Facebook page, but it’s likely to be sometime during the week of July 12.

Typically, the market opens from noon to 6 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Other farmers markets in the region are opening, too.

The Wilkes-Barre Farmers Market on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre opens at 10 a.m. this Thursday with only fresh produce vendors.

The Back Mountain Farmers Market will open later in July.

The Tunkhannock Farmers Market at Creekside Gardens opened Saturday, and one veteran market vendor said shoppers delivered.

“The opening day was one of our best,” said Bill Banta of Rowland’s Pennsylvania Produce in Wyoming County. Shoppers came out strong, he suspects, in part because they want ways to shake off the social isolation of the last few months.

“It’s going to be a good season,” he said.

United Neighborhood Centers’ South Side Farmers Market in South Scranton, which is indoors and open year round, reopened at the end of April to sell order-only goods after shutting down for a few weeks to implement safety measures.

The Schirgs don’t know what to expect, but they’re counting on a strong season. After all, it’s the only place they sell their produce. Theirs is a business model that seems risky, but tantalizingly simple.

“We can sell everything we have right through our farmers market, right to the people,” Jim Schirg said.

They pick vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and sweet onions on off days. They don’t lean on side jobs or other work for income, and some years are better than others, Jim Schirg said. Farming vegetables for the co-op market is a full-time job.

At 16 years old, Matthew Schirg said he plans on carrying on the family business.

“I always enjoy coming out here,” he said.

Contact the writer: joconnell@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9131; @jon_oc on Twitter.

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