Baked goods at Clinton's first outdoor Christmas market at Hunnies Mercantile on Dec. 13. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press).

One size does not fit all at farmers’ markets

It’s a weird world we’re living in.

The latest restrictions from Dr. Bonnie Henry around COVID-19 make sense in so many ways. Wash your hands, wear your mask, keep your distance – things we learned in kindergarten and are being reinforced in these dark days of the pandemic. It even makes sense to limit our family gatherings to flatten the ever-rising upward curve of cases, even though it will make Christmas a lot different this year.

As the pandemic evolves, though, there are also inconsistencies as the province tries to grapple with the growing trend and keep the economy alive. We are asked not to visit with our family in their homes, for instance, but we can meet at a coffee shop and sit at a table without our masks. We shouldn’t work out in public gyms but we can do low-intensity workouts like yoga and pilates.

And, one of the weirdest yet: We can’t sell our crafts at an outdoor Christmas market but we can buy items from the store next door. We understand the rationale, and perhaps in bigger centres like Vancouver, it makes sense to prevent people from congregating at Christmas markets, which can be exceedingly overcrowded.

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However, it seems a little extreme in small towns. A drive-thru outdoor market was recently cancelled in 108 Mile as per the restrictions while one in Clinton last weekend had food-only vendors. It’s great that food vendors were allowed to come out and offer their delicious canning and baked goods but for the South Cariboo’s many crafters, who likely spent much of this year getting ready for the Christmas markets, this rule has really put a crimp in their sales.

This is the prime money-making time of the year for crafters and for many of them, they rely on this income to get them through.

Some of them, to their credit, have turned to online markets or started websites, which is something they should probably do anyway in this day and age. But for those who are older and don’t have the technology, the craft markets are not only a way to sell their handmade quilts and angora mitts and Christmas wreaths, but an opportunity to socialize with their fellow crafters and their neighbours – something that is really important today when we are feeling increasingly isolated and locked down.

Last month, a Lone Butte indoor market was run really well with no issues. People left their names at the door and the number of people inside was limited to 15 at one time. There was no jostling for space and people were able to find unique Christmas gifts from local vendors.

It’s a shame we couldn’t continue the tradition this year, especially since the new rules may have sent more people to big-box stores rather than shopping locally. It’s something Dr. Bonnie Henry should consider when making concessions to the new rules.

While we are all in this together, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all of B.C.

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