The popular Qualicum Beach Farmers Market re-opened on Saturday, with some strict guidelines due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
People trickled into the market in smaller numbers than usual and quickly left after making their purchases.
Market manager Launie Elves said they received some negative feedback for re-opening the market but she stressed organizers have taken every precaution and measures to make sure that none of the guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19 were compromised.
The vendors were all situated only on one side of the road, with cones placed in the middle to separate customers entering to buy and those who finished their business and were leaving. There were also markers to indicate to people how far they should stand while talking to the vendors or waiting for their turn and other signage to remind people of the physical distancing protocol.
“We are limited to 15 vendors and we are not allowing more than 50 people, including vendors, into the market to maintain physical distancing,” said Elves. “Nobody is allowed to touch the food except the vendors. Everything is pre-packaged. We told people to shop with your eyes and tell the vendor what item you want. They will hand them to you so as to minimize anybody touching the items. It’s a lot better than the grocery store.”
Elves said there were no people loitering around and socializing.
“We have removed food samples,” Elves explained. “We do not have music. We usually have a cafe. We don’t even have that. There is no reason for people to come and stay. We don’t have our artisans and crafters, who we love. But now is not the time.”
The Ministry of Public Health and Safety considers farmers market to be an essential service. Elves said they have a letter from the provincial health officer Bonnie Henry stating just that.
“We need to sustain our local food,” Elves explained. “With ferry services being reduced, it’s even more important. Island Hothouse has had crops ready that haven’t been able to get out to people and they’re going to waste. We’re following the rules that everybody else has followed. We are trying to do it even better so everybody is safe when they come and shop.”
Elves said they’re not asking people to come out and hang around while the COVID-19 pandemic is still going on.
“The market is for groceries, not for groups,” said Elves. “Shop, don’t stop. Buy what you need and give others space and be efficient. That’s the message we’re trying to tell people. Come, shop, buy your local fresh food and then take them home.”