If Grocery Stores Are Essential, Why Can’t We Open the Farmer’s Market?

The Government of Ontario is ordering that all non-essential business be closed by midnight on Tuesday, and the province’s grocery stores will not be considered among the “non-essential.” But what about farmers’ markets? One concerned citizen is pushing the City of Guelph to re-open the weekly market in Guelph, but City staff says that there are practical considerations that make that impossible.

Dianne Hurst, who says she represents a group called Guelph Friends of the Farmers’ Market, sent a pair of emails to City staff, councillors and Guelph media about getting the Farmers’ Market re-opened. She argues that with supermarkets being allowed to stay open, then the Farmers’ Market should get the same consideration.

Last week, the City of Guelph announced that the Farmers’ Market will be closed till April 30.

“The Guelph Farmers’ Market building, does not have enough room for vendors and customers to stay two metres (6.5 feet) apart. That puts you, our employees and our community at risk,” explained Danna Evans, general manager of Culture, Tourism and Community Investment, in an email.

“We are concerned about our community’s health and wellbeing. We recognize that our community needs access to fresh and affordable food and would like to support local businesses during the COVID-19 emergency,” Evans added.

Hurst made the additional point that vendors at the Farmers’ Market are going to lose revenue from the nearly two month closure, but it seems that many of the small businesses at the Market have already shifted their business model to deal with the reality.

For instance, some of the Farmers’ Market vendors like Fourfold Farm, and River’s Edge Goat Dairy are continuing to operate out of their own premises, while others, like Fairly Frosted Vegan Bakery, are closing up shop until non-essential business are given the all-clear to re-open. Of the vendors that are remaining open, some like Brantview Apples and Cider have started delivery services, while others like Sweet Temptations are taking part in services like Guelph Box.

The group Farmers’ Markets Ontario, which is an organizing body for farmers markets across province, have published a list of safety protocols for markets to allow them to continue to either operate safely in their present configuration, or create innovative ways to get food from the farm to the public.

Among the recommendations, FMO notes that the primary requirement is to follow the protocols set out by the local public health unit. After that, they recommend that stands be spaced out, that customer circulation be monitored, and that there be no food sampling, reusable containers, or communal tables.

“While the markets may close, there are ways for consumers to continue to support local farmers and producers,” FMO said in a Facebook post. “Check your favourite farmers and farmers’ markets websites or social media channels to see if they are offering deliveries or pick-ups of pre-ordered items.”

Visit the list of vendors on the Guelph Farmers Market website to find links and information to vendors.

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