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Masks On, Voices Heard

by Stephanie Phelan
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woman wearing mask at market

Starting yesterday, March 10th – Texas restaurants and bars will be permitted to operate with no state-mandated mask requirements, capacity limits, nor social distancing measures. Several local groups — including the Restaurant Organizing Project, and the Texas Service Industry Coalition, and several others – held a rally outside of the State Capitol on Monday, March 8 to express their frustrations with the lack of protections and support from state officials.

How people are reacting

For the majority of businesses and farmers markets in the state, the mandate still remains in place. Not by the government, but by the people. As a writer, I wanted to get firsthand experience listening to the voices of local farmers and vendors at the farmers markets. 

texas farmers market talkSo I attended this Texas Farmers Market talk with 5 panelists and over 50 guests via Zoom for International Women’s Day. The moderator was Nena Johnson, Texas Farmers’ Market’s Executive Director and co-owner of Hacienda La Chima – an Agriculture Cooperative in Ecuador. 

The Panelists were: 

Anamaria Guiterrez of Elotes La Tejanita, Garrima Singh of Lamba’s Royal Indian Foods, Julie Myrtille of Julie Myrtille Bakery, Naijean Bernard of Jeany’s Ginger Elixir and Perrine Noelke of Belle Vie Farm and Kitchen. All of the panelists are vendors at the Texas Farmer’s Market. The discussion offered great insight into the meaningful topics of locally produced food and empowering our producers! 

Lessons taught from Texas Farmers Markets

These women panelists come from a variety of backgrounds, and show their culture through their cooking and food production. I learned from this discussion that the Texas Farmer’s Market is a very tight knit community. This new transition back into public gatherings, and releasing the masks mandate has left residents feeling…rather concerned. While it’s considered great for the economy by some, it’s considered scary for the health of the public by most. 

Many small businesses intent is to serve the public, build their dream job, and offer new and local services. Not make tons of money by making unethical or unsafe decisions. So that’s left many small businesses and farmers markets to take matters into their own hands, and leave the masks ON. Was this the right move by Governor Abbott to show support to the community? Many would argue that the answer is no.  

The “Mask Discussion”

grocery shopping with maskIn fact, Texas Monthly has posted several related articles on the entire story. Stating “Latino food workers are terrified as the mask mandate is lifted – saying it’s a matter of life or death”. And barbecue business owners are not happy either.  Barbecue joints are at the heart of everything Texas – these businesses are what are bringing major revenue to the state since the beginning! Especially with all of the travel & food documentaries out there these days – Texas is on the map. And it’s thanks to these business owners, so let their voice be heard!

According to Eater Austin, Austin Service Workers are even demanding vaccination of 70% of the workforce before a state reopening. “It’s a slap in the face to all of the low-wage workers,”Jeannette Gregor, a rally organizer and founder of Amplified Sound Coalition, tells Eater. It’s important to remember that those in the service industry are at a greater risk with the no-mask mandate than many other industries. Plus, this sector is also one of the lowest paid sectors in the U.S.

So, while many farmers markets and businesses are still mandating masks upon entry, please consider why they are doing so. It’s important to respect the business owners’ preferences.  You can find our updated lists of Farmer’s Markets that are open here.  As well as checking our directory for other items – like meat, cheese and eggs. We’re all in this together. Lets support, while still being safe.

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