B.C. farmers markets are an important way to deliver healthy food, but they have to stick to food vendors only during the coronavirus pandemic, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says.
Henry announced her latest public health order March 27, limiting community markets and farmers markets to food sales only.
“This is recognition of how important it is for us to be able to access locally grown and produced food, and the farmers markets are an important part of that,” Henry said. “But we don’t want them to be areas where people are going to be going and mingling in large groups because of the risk right now that that entails.”
The COVID-19 public health emergency has already seen her order bars to close, most restaurants to go to pickup and delivery only, and gatherings outside of family groups to be limited with individuals kept apart. The provincial state of emergency powers announced this week designates food producers and community gardens as part of a list of essential services.
To help with Henry’s orders regarding physical distance to prevent transmission of the virus, The B.C. Association of Farmers Markets is helping its 145 member markets move to online sales. The B.C. government has provided $55,000 to the association to cover member fees to join and set up their own online presence.
The funding comes from the province’s Buy BC program that promotes B.C.-grown vegetables, meat and seafood for sale in stores. As markets set up and offer online sales, their locations will be added to the association’s market tour website, bcfarmersmarkettrail.com.
“Our member farmers markets continue to modify their operations to ensure the health and safety of customers, vendors and market organizers alike,” said Heather O’Hara, the association’s executive director. “In further response to COVID-19, our new B.C. Farmers’ Markets Online platform will offer a new shopping channel for the peak farmers market season this summer.