The White Rock Farmers’ Market will return to the uptown neighbourhood on Sunday, May 3 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
But if that conjures visions of hundreds of people mingling with a profusion of vendors in the Russell Avenue/White Rock Community Centre area while they sip coffee and listen to live entertainment, market manager Helen Fathers is at pains to assure the public that the 2020 edition won’t be the market of old.
And while she acknowledged that she expects “some push-back” on opening the market this year, she is hopeful that people will realize that it is going to be a very different experience.
“Please don’t expect what it’s going to be like based on previous years,” Fathers – also a White Rock councillor – told Peace Arch News, adding that she and market staff are very sensitive to COVID-19 and social distancing concerns, following established guidelines for social gatherings and encouraging a “shop – don’t stop” policy.
“We’ll only have about a third of the vendors we usually have, and we’re anticipating we won’t have the same volume of customers,” she said.
“There won’t be any entertainment or other events and the vendors will only be selling food and beverage products,” she said. “It’ll essentially be an outdoor grocery market.”
And just like indoor grocery markets, full social distancing measures will be in place, she said, including cordoning off and dividing the site, limiting entry and exit points to two, and operating with correctly-distanced line-ups of customers supervised by safety-masked market staff.
Vendors will also be separated from one another, she added.
“To be a vendor you have had to go through the many hoops that Fraser Health has established for safety – and rightly so.
Fathers noted that farmers’ markets are officially deemed an essential service.
“A lot of people rely on us for safe and healthy food,” she said, adding that the market is also a venue honouring coupons issued through a joint provincial government/ BC Association of Farmers’ Markets nutritional program.
The coupons, distributed through the White Rock South Surrey Food Bank to pregnant women, seniors and single parents, amount to some $25,000 a year – “a quarter of our budget,” Fathers said.
“We didn’t feel that postponing or cancelling the market was a viable option for us.”
But Fathers said she and market staff will continue to assess the market (set to run until Oct. 25) on a week-by-week basis.
“We’re going to be tweaking things as we go through the season; assessing whatever we can do to improve on anything,” she said. “We think we’ll be able to manage it – there are quite a few farmers’ markets starting to go into operation, and we’re going to be visiting New Westminster this week to observe how they’re doing it there.”
Fathers noted that for those strictly isolating, the market website also includes a vendor directory that would facilitate other ways of buying produce from them.
“If people really don’t want to come to the market, they can also visit the website and contact the vendors directly,” she said.
For more information, visit whiterockfarmersmarket.ca