The first two weeks of the Vernon Farmer’s Market have been successful despite the challenges posed by the the COVID-19 pandemic, but those challenges could loom larger once peak season hits in the summer months.
The market grounds have been clearly marked for one-way foot traffic, and stalls have been pushed back to avoid groups from forming. Staff keep count of the number of people in the market at one time, and along the market walkway are stations with hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes.
Things look different this year, in part because there are half as many vendors as there would be under normal circumstances. Only food vendors have been deemed essential services by provincial health authorities.
“We would sure like to have cleaning products like soaps here,” said market manager Ingrid Baron, referring to the many handmade soap vendors the market normally features.
“It’s just sad for all our friends who do crafts and other stuff, that they can’t be here, because that’s their whole income too,” said Nick Forrester of Ghostly Garlic, a vendor since July 2019. “You’d think with all this handwashing that soap would be kind of essential.”
Fewer vendors means less income for the market as a whole, which has had to dip into savings to cover costs.
The market will also have to manage space shortages once fruit vendors arrive during the peak season. Normally the market square is packed with people and vendors, but that won’t be possible given social distancing requirements.
But Baron says one way or another, the market must go on.
“We have to make it work. The farmers are essential to our food security, and if they keep talking about food supply chains going crazy, we need to have this.”
The Vernon Farmer’s Market is open Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information and a list of vendors, visit vernonfarmersmarket.ca.