Artisans will be returning as vendors to the Nelson farmers markets starting on Saturday.
Council made this decision at its Monday meeting following a recommendation by its market advisory committee, which was formed earlier this summer. The committee includes several farmers who are market vendors.
“Farmers want to see the artisans back,” Councillor Jesse Woodward, who is on the committee, told council.
“Jordan Martin (who manages the markets for the city-run Nelson and District Youth Centre), made it very clear that we can not just cram the market the way it was,” he said. “We have to follow protocols. It has to be organized.”
In April the provincial government, as part of COVID-19 provisions, ruled that farmers’ markets could not sell anything but food. Since then it has allowed artisans back to markets.
Martin, in an interview, said booths will be mapped out and safely distanced and there is high demand for the spots, although farmers will still have priority.
“It’s going to be very limited and it’s filling up fast,” she said.
The number of customers allowed into the market will continue to be limited.
“We ask that people be patient with us because there’s a lineup at 9 a.m. [on Saturdays] and we’ve had to hold people up,” Martin said. “Social distancing is key.”
Woodward also emphasized to council the intention to follow COVID-19 protocols strictly.
“We don’t want to be the town that has a COVID-19 outbreak at the farmers market,” he said.
When council took over the markets from the West Kootenay EcoSociety this year and assigned the youth centre to run them, it decided to move the Wednesday market from its established location on Baker Street to Cottonwood Park.
The advisory committee has also discussed the desire of many market vendors to move the market back downtown on Wednesdays. But it has decided that’s an issue for next year.
“The committee has agreed that to try to move the market this late in the season would just create confusion,” Martin said.
“Moving to Baker Street,” Woodward told council, “is off limits this year because of COVID and [because we want] brick and mortar businesses to have all they need to keep going.”
Martin said that the number of customers at the Saturday market in the past couple of weeks has been close to previous years (952 customers this past week) and that the Wednesday market, even though it started slow, with fewer vendors, is also increasing (600 customers this week).
She said the market is working with BC Transit to allow people with mobility issues to use handyDart to get to and from the market.
The BC Farmers’ Market Association’s coupon program, which provides $21 per week of coupons for lower-income families, pregnant women and seniors, is being well-used, Martin said.
“We even now have a food security ambassador who’s doing deliveries to individual homes.”