By Connor Lynch
BRANTFORD — Despite being declared essential businesses last month, some farmers’ markets elected to close last month and producers are coping as best they can.
The St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market announced on March 31 it would temporarily close; the Brantford Farmers’ Market announced March 17 that it would close after the province announced a ban on gatherings of over 50 people. The Sarnia Farmers’ Market, however, was still open but taking measures such as posting hand sanitizer at entrances and enforcing social distancing. In a March 25 Facebook post, the market said: “If you come, please be quick and decisive.” The Market at Western Fair District in London also announced it would be staying open for its Saturday market for reduced hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but closing the Sunday market.
Kara Pate, who runs Brantwood Farms in the city of Brantford, said her situation was a bit unique. The farm’s retail store is classified as a grocery store, as it sells not only fruits and veggies from the farm but meat and dairy from neighbouring farms and even processed foods like bread and baked goods.
Nevertheless, the farm does count on markets for about 20 per cent of its annual income, she said. Foot traffic (such as it is) was actually up at the retail location, with curbside pickup for the many seniors that live in the area proving especially popular. Customers order in advance, pay in advance or on-site with a tap of the debit card and staff load the order into the customers’ car. “They don’t even have to get out,” she said.
Customers they’d normally see at the Brantford Farmers’ Market were showing up at the farm as well, she said. The bigger question would be the half-dozen farmers’ markets they normally go to during the summer, ones that represent a much larger geographical area. “If they don’t open, it’ll definitely be a hit.”
It was a similar story for Colin Clement, who runs Clement Poultry and Orchards at Newcastle, just east of Toronto. They normally sell at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, just outside Kitchener. Overall income for the farm was down from last year but not catastrophically, he said.
But the big question mark is the summer. Clement was considering a 75 per cent cut in his vegetable acreage because he’s not sure if he will be able to move it all. The St. Jacob’s market was working with the local health unit to open an outdoor market but it was a work in progress. “I don’t even know how to approach my summer with this going on,” Clement said.
WESTERN ONTARIO: Farm-to-consumer operations coping as best they can with some markets closing
By Connor Lynch