Staples of the summertime experience, farmers’ markets are among the retail operations now reopening under relaxed provincial rules. Operating under new safety guidelines, the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market has reopened Thursdays and Saturdays, while the Elmira Farmers’s Market resumes June 13.
Allan Martin, manager of the Elmira market, says he is excited and looking forward to opening weekend, noting people should be aware of the new rules and respect others who are coming out to shop.
“We’re there to supply the needs of the people that want to come out and support local, but please remember that it’s not a gathering place. We need to respect other people’s wishes of wanting to shop, so the idea is to get people in and get people out so that more people can come out and buy their local stuff,” said Martin.
As with all shopping experiences, things will look a little different than previous years for those who attend. From the number of people allowed in at a time to mandatory hand sanitization, the coronavirus has forced changes on every retailer, farmers’ markets included.
Martin says there will now only be one entrance and exit to the farmers’ market area that sees more than 400 people come out each weekend, with everything being roped off so they can monitor the number of people going in at any time. There will be a limit of 50 people allowed in at once, and everyone who enters must sanitize or wash their hands before going in. Sanitizer will also be available at each vendor’s booth. Masks are not being deemed mandatory and are to be used at the discretion of customers.
At the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, many of the same health and safety measures have been implemented, including limiting the number of entrances to one, limiting the number of people allowed inside and not opening certain vendors that sell items such as fast food.
Leanne McGray, market manager, says the experience will not be the same as visitors have come to expect, noting customers need to adjust to the necessary changes.
“We have to all be flexible and expect something new, and you have to be flexible and try something new. Our vendors are selling in different ways, our access is different and it looks different, so I think I would like people to understand that it’s going to be a little bit different,” said McGray. “There’s a new normal for everybody and we all have to be a little bit more patient and a bit more accommodating.”
A fence has been put up around the outdoor market so the number of people inside can be limited to about 300 at any given time. The number of people allowed inside the indoor market has also been changed to 60. Customer will also see arrows on the floor guiding them along the path they must follow, and social distancing signs are in place to encourage people to stay six feet apart.
While the news for Woolwich shoppers is good, not all farmers’ markets in the region will be taking advantage of new provincial rules, as is the case in Wellesley, where organizers have chosen to forego the summer opening and wait until the fall.
“The Wellesley Farmers’ Market has decided to delay our opening from our normal June timeline to instead run a fall market for this year. We plan to open for September and part of October,” said the organizing committee in a statement. “…This was a very difficult decision for the committee to make. The desire to be able to open for our community and continue to be a service to them was balanced against the safety of our vendors and our community members in (the) wake of COVID-19.”
The committee continued by saying they looked at a number of factors before coming to the decision, maintaining that delaying the opening was the best approach that would ensure everyone’s safety. Because of their current location, the risk of people congregating was high and to follow social distancing measures they would have had to “move locations, become an uncovered market and find more volunteers to help administer the new way of life with COVID-19.”
They also say the stress of a volunteer-run market would be too much in trying to follow the guidelines put in place.
“We have seen some of the setbacks already when the guidelines were lifted for parks and other areas, which contributed to the concerns around maintaining compliance with the rules for our market.”
The Elmira Farmers’ Market, which operates from a Maple Street parking lot, is open Saturdays until the end of October from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.