Farmers’ markets open with safety protocols
By Sue Tiffin
The county’s three farmers’ markets won’t look the same this year, but they’ll be open for business even if it’s not as usual.
Minden’s market runs Saturdays, beginning June 13, Haliburton’s market runs Tuesdays, beginning June 16 and Stanhope will open on Fridays, beginning June 26.
Though the season is starting later than usual, the Haliburton County Farmers’ Market Association has been working over the past two months to develop an operational plan for the markets to be able to open under strict guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring public health department approval and permission to use municipal property from all three townships.
“We’ve gone through a rather rigorous process, and justifiably so, to make sure that everything is going to be safe,” said Gus Janca, secretary of the Haliburton County Farmers’ Market. “Everybody’s supportive and everybody’s on board.”
While the markets will be open, Minden's will be held in the fairgrounds with an entrance by the curling club rather than the municipal parking lot, and Haliburton’s will be held in Rotary Park, due to changes made prior to the pandemic in anticipation of renovation work being done in Head Lake Park. All will be set up in the shape of the letter U, with one entrance, a one-direction walk-through and no turning back.
“If you forgot to pick up your bread, you’ll have to go back in, just like in a grocery store, you don’t turn around and go against the arrow,” said Janca, referencing physical distancing measures that include signage in place at grocery stores.
The HCFMA is asking customers to wear masks and follow guidelines posted at the market locations, and is also spreading vendors out to offer physical distancing. A curbside option is not available, but Janca said customers are encouraged to contact vendors in advance to order and pre-pay if possible, and cash used that day will use a system so that money in circulation from customers is kept separate from money used as change in return.
“Public health feels that if the change has sat for 72 hours, if money has sat for 72 hours, the virus won’t survive so quarantine cash will be available,” said Janca. “We’re not actually handling the money so this is between the vendors, but we have already sent them a set of protocols ... Then the vendor can use public health procedures to make sure the cash they’ve collected is then safe, whether that be washing it, quarantining it for a period, or whatever.”
Additionally, food will be available, but not ready-to-eat meals, as per public health regulations. Janca had recently heard artisan vendors might be able to be included but didn't have further information at press time.
Janca notes the changes might be disappointing to some regular market goers – he said the lack of prepared meals breaks his heart, noting, “I love those falafels” - but he said he appreciated that the market itself is considered an essential service on the province’s list and he said the public health unit did help develop a plan to open. Many of the vendors were able to return, although some had to opt out for reasons including making prior commitments due to the late start in the markets opening.
“These vendors are small business people, and I think that small business people all over are the ones that are going to take the biggest financial hit,” he said. “This is a way to support your community, if you are a customer, to support your community directly ... We have statistics from past years that show that when a dollar comes into the farmers’ market, it turns over a number of times in this community,” he said. “It’s also become very evident that people here are turning back to local food and seeing the value of having locally grown food where you are trustworthy of the person, the person that’s behind that table is the one that grew that food. There’s a real movement toward that and we are really pleased we can continue with that tradition.”
Janca said the pandemic has resulted, for some people, in “glimpses of the downside of the global market,” for example in our reliance on goods like personal protective equipment from other countries.
“I think we should be looking at other commodities, especially food,” he said. “We need to have food security. Food security means that if the global market collapses, we still can eat. By supporting your local farmer, that’s working toward that.”
A May 25 press release from the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District health unit encourages farmers’ markets to sell online as “the best approach to use at this time,” but also accepted detailed plans and proposals from markets wishing to open, with “details on how the market will maintain physical distancing, ensure proper handwashing, and follow appropriate cleaning/protocols,” which are then reviewed for approval by a public health inspector.
“During COVID-19, farmers who sell locally-grown and sourced foods in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes must keep the health and safety of the community top of mind,” reads the HKPRDHU release.
Further information about the Haliburton County Farmers’ Markets is available at http://www.hcfma.ca.