The Williams Lake Farmers Market is implementing changes so it can open May 8 and adhere to COVID-19 precautions.
“We have been piggy backing on what some of the other markets are doing and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and the BC Farmers Market Association put out some very thorough guidelines,” said Barb Scharf on behalf of the nine-member board.
“Some markets are already running down south so we can watch and ask them questions.”
It will be sad in some ways, she said, because the board has worked hard to create a social atmosphere at the market.
Following the new rules will result in a ‘shop don’t stop’ event set up strictly for connecting the public with farmers and growers for the sale of food.
Leading up to developing the market’s response to the restrictions, the board consulted with farmers markets in Quesnel, McLeese Lake and 100 Mile House.
“It has been a good communal and community process,” Scharf said.
She also expressed gratitude to City of Williams Lake chief administrative officer Milo MacDonald, councillor Scott Nelson and Cariboo Regional District Area D director Steve Forseth who have all been supportive about the market moving forward.
“It is really encouraging to have them all behind us,” Scharf said.
Vendors hoping to attend the first Market on Friday, May 8 include Redneck Gardens (sauerkraut, canning, veggie & herb plants), Puddle Produce Farm (early greens), Windy Creek Farm (grass-fed beef), Fennel Cup Food Truck (to go meals, frozen meals), Soulstice Herbals (herbal tea blends), Frank’s Plants & Produce (veggie starts and fruit plants), Cookie Jane (baking), Cody’s Bannock (takeout bannock) and a number of others who are still working on logistics.
There will be only one monitored entrance to market space and a separate exit. People will also be instructed to social distance by staying six feet apart. Handwashing stations will be placed at the entrance and exit.
Vendors will also be undertaking no-contact sales techniques as much as possible and will be practicing recommended sanitation and hygiene routines
“Customers will not be allowed to handle displayed merchandise, ” Scharf explained, noting vendors will pick and pack orders under instruction from customers.
Vendors must provide clean bags — no re-used or reusable bags — to pack purchases in.
Accepting cash will be at the discretion of vendors, but some will take debit and credit cards. The market will post a list on its Facebook page and website listing how vendors will accept payment.
As long as the COVID-19 precautions are in place, there will be no musicians or entertainers, no artisans or crafters. ’
An online marketplace will be live on Friday, May 1 and the market will publicize the links and participating vendors at that time on its Facebook page.
Scharf confirmed there will be food vendors, horticultural vendors, artisans and crafters listing online, with each vendor participating in the online program will have their own shop.
Pre-ordered food items from online market participants may be picked up at the market or at alternate locations as pre-arranged, all other non-food items will be delivered/picked up in a safe way but not in the market space
The Friday, May 8 market will run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and the Tuesday evening market is slated to start mid-June and will run from 2 to 7 p.m.
Scharf owns Hill Farm Nursery at Macalister about ten minutes north of McLeese Lake and said it has been a late spring.
“We don’t really know what the future holds at this point, it’s about taking one step at a time. It is difficult for market gardeners trying to figure out how much to plant.”
She said it felt scary at first because they did not know if farmers markets would be allowed, but now the board feels like they have a handle on the necessary changes that need to be made.
Earlier this spring Scharf and her daughter, Jane Bowser, who served as joint managers for the market in 2019 received the market manager of the year award from the BC Association of Farmers Markets.