The South Cariboo Farmers Market continued to edge towards normalcy on Friday, June 5 as non-food vendors were allowed for the first time this season but strict safety precautions remain in place.
Director Rita Giesbrecht serves as assistant manager of the market alongside current market manager Amanda Patterson. Giesbrecht also has her own booth shared with Big Rock Ranch where she sells homemade preserves under her own name.
Giesbrecht reiterated that they’ve been able to reopen this year, despite COVID-19, as the government has deemed farmers markets an essential service because of the access it gives people to food. Dr. Bonnie Henry has been very specific and helpful, she said, in giving them directions on how they should and can operate under these new directives.
“Everything we’ve done with the farmers market has been in accordance with those directives,” Giesbrecht said. “Most recently the restrictions for the number of people, social distancing and spacing between booths has stayed in place and the restrictions against non-food vendors have been lifted.”
Because the South Cariboo Farmers Market is a member of the B.C. Farmers Market Association, she said they also operate under their parameters which means they have a mandate to be a food forwarded market. Giesbrecht said they need a minimum of 51 per cent of the vendors to be food-based.
Due to restrictions in available space and other concerns, Giesbrecht said they are still prioritizing food vendors first and will be making space for non-food vendors in accordance with their own management decisions. This focus on food being the priority will remain in place for the rest of season, she confirmed.
“One thing that has happened is that with the restriction in number of vendors our revenue has gone down to a fraction of what we normally would expect, so we also have bare that in mind,” Giesbrecht said. “Things may change as the season progresses but none of us knows what that will be.”
Due to the reduced revenue, Giesbrecht said they have no plans to move inside this year as they are unable to afford the rent of the community hall. With the space available they can allow for around 15 vendors outside on the street.
Giesbrecht would like to encourage people to come out and buy their food, especially fresh produce, from the farmers market every Friday. She feels if there is one thing this pandemic has taught us is that local food sources are crucial and encourages people to focus on buying and eating local.
The market has also returned to its normal hours of operation opening at 9 p.m. every Friday and going until 2 p.m.