There was no breakfast on offer, no relaxing on brightly-coloured picnic tables while chatting with neighbours, and no music to enjoy, but Saturday’s Farmers’ Market at The Village was a welcome sight for locals who have been itching to get back to something that feels at least somewhat normal.
The early birds experienced a “short sprinkle of rain,” says market co-ordinator Sharon Brinsmead-Taylor, but then the sun came out and the weather was ideal, better than it has been for many season openings in past years.
“The day went extremely well. I really did not know what to expect, but our town came out and supported local,” she says.
Brinsmead-Taylor was delighted the Province paved the way just in time to allow the local market to open on its scheduled 14th annual opening. Leading up to the day, she worked with Niagara Region Public Health on safety measures to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.
The market looks and operates a little differently than in previous years, but locals took their place in line, respecting physical distancing, some, but not all, wearing masks.
Staff were ensuring everyone used hand sanitizer before taking their place in line, asking for only one person per household, and directing traffic to move in one direction. There were no washrooms, and no handling of products before they were purchased.
There was an obvious feeling of welcome familiarity, with locals delighted to chat with neighbours in line, and connect with vendors from previous seasons.
“Everyone was fantastic,” says Brinsmead-Taylor. “Customers were very conscious of physically distancing themselves from other customers. People were patient, waiting their turn, and even though they wanted to chat with vendors, were mindful of making their purchases and moving on if there were others waiting.”
Some were not happy with the one-shopper limit per household, she says.
“We do allow couples to wait in line together, but when they shop, only one can go in, with the exception of a single parent with a child, or a senior needing assistance. If the shopping area was quiet, we did allow couples to enter.”
However, they made it clear that in future weeks, if it’s busy, “only one of them will be able to enter.”
Brinsmead-Taylor says she wasn’t counting the number of shoppers, but in speaking with vendors, heard “they all had good sales, comparable with previous years’ opening day figures, so attendance must have been on par with past opening days.”
There were only nine vendors, with the Province restricting markets to farmers and food products. Rose and Ken Bartel, anchors at the market from its earliest days, were there with vegetable plants, but there was no sign of their beautiful cut flower arrangements.
During the coming weeks, more farmers will be setting up stands as their produce is ready for market.
“We see this every season,” says Brinsmead-Taylor. “Early on farmers have very little available, so they put off their start date until they have enough to sell.”
She’s hoping the Region will allow non-food items, so some of the popular vendors who sell items such as bath and body products, antiques, housewares, jewelry and art can return.
“I feel having these vendors present really rounds out the farmers’ market shopping experience. Fingers crossed.”
The Farmers’ Market at the Village on Niagara Stone Road is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.