The South Cariboo Farmers’ Market will be restricted to food vendors only due to COVID-19, noting they are an agriculture and food-based retail establishment and have been designated an essential service.
“Under the B.C. State of Emergency Act, farmers’ markets are considered an essential service,” says market manager Amanda Patterson. “We are expected to comply with hygienic practices and physical distancing to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. We’re directed by the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. They have laid out all of the rules for us to follow, and it’s not just our market, it’s all of the markets throughout B.C. so that we’re all united and we’re all supplying the exact same essential services to our communities.”
As a new market manager, Patterson says she’s fearful because if someone gets sick at the market it will be her fault.
“I have all of the exact same fears that everybody in our community has right now because I know that we’re being told to stay home and to self-isolate but I feel like it is so important that we run ahead not just for farmers but for the coupon program. For the families in the community that we supply healthy food to that have low income and have small children or disabilities or seniors. Those are the people that are most needing the help right now. We need to be able to have that platform to give them that fresh healthy food option.”
Through the coupon program, in collaboration with the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre, recipients receive a set amount of coupons each week for 16 weeks to purchase fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, eggs, nuts and herbs at B.C. farmers’ markets. The program is restricted to pregnant families, low-income families, single-parent families and seniors with generally over 20 families being recipients.
There will be no food sampling, no tasting, no trying, no treats, no soaps, no arts, no crafts, no fabric producers but food only, says Patterson, which by the food safety act means instantly consumable food, like fruit and vegetables or meat, anything that is a basic ingredient to make something, like honey for baking, and plants, so there will be some nursery plants. Items like coffee and tea won’t be available because that’s a drink sampling, says Patterson.
Besides being food only, the market will be outside only, with no access to the bathrooms for the public; there will be a designated entrance and exit with it being taped off so people can’t come in from multiple sides; they will limit the number of people who can enter with volunteers at the entrance and exit to keep track; vendors will be spaced properly; vendors will be required to have two people on an eight-foot table to they’re socially distancing and that if there are cash purchases versus online prepayments there’s no cross-contamination with the food; there will be hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit, according to Patterson. The measures were all directed to them by the PHO and the BCCDC, she says.
“It’s not going to be the fun event that we’re so used to. It’s going to be go in and get your food and exit out the other way and we’re done right. It’s come and have your lunch and sit and listen to the music and have your face painted and cotton candy right. It’s a serious food only, food sovereignty type of deal.”
They are emphasizing social distancing, according to an earlier press release.
“We love, as much as anyone, to hang at the market and socialize. That will come again, but for this year our focus is to provide fresh healthy food with a minimum of interaction and contact,” the release noted.
Furthermore, vendors and producers will be encouraging customers to pre-order for pickup and provide other options as the season and changing requirements progress.
Hours will be reduced, leaving the market open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. They note there is still a need for volunteers and that they will only have a fraction of the normal operating income this season and some operational challenges, adding there are many ways that individuals can help keep the market vibrant.
“The year 2020 will go down in the books as one that we went through together, with the farmers and food producers of the South Cariboo writing their part of the story with hard work, and generosity of spirit for the health and well being of our community.”
Patterson says that if anyone is concerned to shoot her an email and they can talk about it over the phone or they can come and volunteer to make sure the rules are adhered to.
The market runs from May 1 to Oct. 1.