The Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market is signing up for the online market being organized by the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets.
“It’s a lot to take on in a short period of time, so I ‘m sure the rollout won’t be the smoothest,” Kamloops Regional Farmers’ Market manager Greg Unger said. “We’re going to offer, maybe, curbside pickup or delivery if we can swing it.”
During the pandemic, the BC Association of Farmers' Markets (BCAFM) is helping member markets move to an online model to continue providing consumers with locally grown and prepared food.
The 145 member farmers’ markets — including Kamloops — in British Columbia are eligible to receive funding to help transition to an online market platform. The provincial government is providing $55,000 to the BCAFM to cover fees for individual farmers markets to join the online platform and set up their digital market store presence. Each participating farmers market will create its own virtual market store to best serve its communities.
But the online market will complement — not replace — the physical farmers’ market downtown, a pared-down version of which is scheduled to open on April 18 in the 200-block of St. Paul Street.
Unger noted the Ministry of Health has declared farmers’ markets an essential service.
“We feel strongly we should continue with the farmers’ market,” Unger said. “But it’s going to look completely different from what people are picturing. The middle-of-August farmers’ market with crowds and dogs and kids — it’s not going to be that. The [Stuart Wood] schoolyard is going to be closed.”
In addition, Unger said, there will be one entrance to the market (at St. Paul Street and Third Avenue), vendor stalls will be separated by at least two metres (six feet) of space, per physical-distances guidelines, markers will be added to the pavement to guide shoppers in physical distancing, the number of people entering at one time will be capped and no entertainment will be on site.
Unger said the market will operate much like Save-On-Foods now does, with limited number of customers at one time, six feet between people in line, reminders about physical distancing, hand sanitizer available and increased cleaning measures employed.
“Save-On is doing a really good job and I plan to model our market on how they’re doing it,” he said.
Unger said the Kamloops market has about 120 registered vendors, with the busiest day last season featuring 104 vendors. Due to the pandemic, the market will be limited to about 30 vendors, due to spacing requirements. Only agriculture- and prepared food-related vendors will take part, with no non-food-related stalls permitted, based on an order from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“We’re doing everything we can to discourage people from lingering,” Unger said. “We’re going with the slogan. ‘Shop, don’t stop.’”
British Columbians can find out which markets have launched online operations in the weeks and months ahead at https://bcfarmersmarkettrail.com/.
B.C. farmers markets during COVID-19
All members of the BC Association of Farmers' Markets have put the following protocols in place to help ensure the health and safety of vendors, organizers and customers:
• The majority of farmers markets are outdoors and implementing measures to limit the number of people allowed in one area at the same time;
• Ensuring the availability and regular use of hand-washing stations with soap or hand sanitizer;
• Markets have eliminated unnecessary activities, such as food sampling, food demos and social activities;
• Regular cleaning and sanitizing of high touch surfaces;
• Organizers, vendors or shoppers are asked not to attend the market if sick or feeling any symptoms of sickness;
• Clearly defining the space where and how farmers markets operate to ensure physical distancing, including;
• Minimizing entry/exit points to better control frequency and number of shoppers;
• Limiting and managing lineups to ensure social distancing protocols;
• Ensuring adequate distance between vendor booths set up;
• Directing traffic through the market (e.g., chalk markings on ground, ropes, barriers and other markers);
• Encouraging cashless payments.