Farmers markets on Haida Gwaii are working to sell vendor products through an online store during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Marylynn Hunt of St. Mary’s Spring Farm in Tlell told the Observer she has been providing information to the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets (BCAFM) to have local vendors join the voluntary BC Farmers’ Markets Online initiative announced on March 27.
“They’re getting it set up for us,” Hunt said of the BCAFM. “It should be running within two weeks, mid-April.”
She said the online store will show shoppers a list of products that are for sale on-island as well as a choice of vendors, when more than one vendor sells the same product. Orders will go directly to the vendors, who will decide their own prices and delivery methods.
Through the Buy BC program, the Ministry of Agriculture is covering the fees for markets to go online in the 2020 season.
While Hunt said some vendors do not use computers and will not be using the online platform, “those people can be called.”
The contact information for vendors who are accepting weekly orders leading up to and after the platform is online is posted on the Queen Charlotte Farmers Market Facebook page and Masset Market Facebook page.
The physical markets will continue to operate as an essential service, Hunt added, on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. across from the credit union on Main Street in Masset and on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. on the roadside across from the Queen Charlotte community hall, which is closed from all user access.
She said the physical markets are following recommended safety protocols, such as asking patrons to maintain a 2-metre distance from each other and use provided sanitizers, as well as stay home if they have cold or flu symptoms, or have traveled within the last 14 days.
“Basically all the same things people are doing at the grocery store,” she said.
“The health of the island, the safety of people’s health and food security are paramount right now.”
In a March 16 letter to the BCAFM, Dr. Eleni Galanis, a physician epidemiologist with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, said farmers’ markets could “continue at this time.”
“Farmers’ markets are not currently considered a high risk setting for the transmission of COVID-19,” Galanis said in the letter. “Farmers’ markets are usually held outdoors and there are usually a limited number of people in any one area at the same time.”
Galanis said the decision had been made after consultation with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
On March 26, the Ministry of Health designated farmers’ markets as essential food and agriculture service providers.
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