As our state resumes business after the COVID-19 shutdowns this spring, one of the first places that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds allowed to reopen was the local farmers markets.

It may be surprising that the farmers markets could reopen before barbershops and restaurants. But just like other small businesses, farmers markets play an important role in our state.

The markets support Iowa farmers who depend on direct-to-customer sales during the growing season. In addition, farmers markets benefit Iowa’s overall economy.

According to Iowa State University, farmers markets in Iowa contribute an estimated $59.4 million in gross sales to the state economy, generating $17.8 million in payroll and nearly 600 jobs in the state.

Plus, farmers markets provide Iowans with nutritious, locally grown produce. Eating fruits and vegetables, as part of a balanced diet, benefits our immune system.

Unfortunately, Iowa ranks 49th nationally in fruit and vegetable consumption. Farmers markets can help fill that nutrition gap.

While not every farmers market in Iowa has opened yet, the Ames Main Street Farmers Market kicked off its season in late May.

I stopped by the Ames market on opening day and felt comfortable with the new social distancing practices in place to keep vendors and customers healthy.

Of course, it also feels more like summer when I can walk around the farmers market and admire all the gorgeous flowers and produce grown locally.

Yes, the farmers market looks different this year. Visitors are greeted with signs encouraging them to “Stop, Shop and Go” to remind them to shop quickly and exit so others can shop and maintain social distance.

The Iowa Farm Bureau is proud to support the state’s farmers markets and the farmers who work hard to provide Iowans with locally grown, nutritious meats, poultry, eggs and produce.

For the 11th year, the Iowa Farm Bureau donated more than 1 million recyclable plastic bags to more than 1,700 farmers market vendors throughout the state.

The market bags help customers safely transport locally grown produce and foods home.

In addition to using clean market bags, you can ensure the fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market are safe by washing and scrubbing produce under running water and drying with a clean paper towel.

Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before preparing food, and when you return home from the farmers market. Many farmers markets also offer hand sanitizer stations for customer use.

If your local farmers market hasn’t opened yet, you can connect with the farmers market or your favorite market vendor on their Facebook or Instagram pages and see if you can buy directly from the farms.

Many Iowa farmers markets are switching to online or curbside sales. To find the dates and times of all of Iowa’s farmers markets, visit the Iowa Department of Land and Ag Stewardship website.