Kamloops Farmers Market adapting to COVID-19 changes

You can still find your favourite vendors at the Kamloops Farmers Market with a few adjustments for community safety

The Kamloops Farmers Market hopes to keep the summertime hot spot safe and functioning throughout the summer. (Justin Moore/The Omega)

As the warmer weather starts to take over Kamloops and restrictions on social distancing are starting to lighten up in some aspects, the Kamloops Farmers Market is working to continue to bring the favourite local Saturday morning tradition.

“It has been a lot, it’s been a rollercoaster,” Greg Unger, Kamloops Regional Farmers Market Manager, said on the hurdles the market has faced the first market on April 18. 

While the market isn’t exactly like locals will remember from previous years, you can expect to see your favourite vendors selling the wide array of locally made products.

“Our mission is to encourage and support local production of food and to provide an outlet for regional produce in order to promote regional food security and sovereignty. This mission is never more important than during a crisis,” the Kamloops Regional Farmers Market stated on their website. 

Unger stated that the shopper attendance numbers compiled at the end of April showed that the number was down an estimated 50 per cent compared to the previous year, along with a decrease in vendor attendance due to personal health and safety concerns. 

“We still have all the essentials and we still have most of everyone’s favourite big names at the market,” Unger encouraged. 

Unger and the volunteers responsible for putting the market together have been working to follow the guidelines put in place by the government and adapting as changes are made. The market has been structured to ensure that all vendors are able to keep the appropriate two metres about as per social distancing requirements. 

Unger estimates that the number of shoppers within the market can fluctuate between 100 and 150 people depending on the formation of groups.

While you may be tempted to stop and chat with your favourite vendor or a friend you haven’t seen in awhile, Unger urges you to limit lingering within the market toa minimum. 

“We’re trying to encourage people to shop don’t stop but sometimes people see a friend that they haven’t talked to in a while and I understand that you’re going to want to stop and talk for a while,” Unger said.

Most controversially is the decision to temporarily prohibit dogs within the market area as Unger suggests that those cute four-legged friends encourage people to stop and group up. 

“Early on we thought that dogs would encourage people to linger and maybe raise the risk of people not maintaining their safe physical distance,” Unger explained on the no pup rule. 

As of June 1, the Kamloops Farmers Market will be allowed to include the craft market that normally occupies the Stuart Wood schoolyard, as well as the Wednesday craft market on Victoria street. 

Don’t want to risk venturing downtown to physically shop from booth to booth? The market has teamed up with Local Line, a company based out of Ontario, to create an online store with pick-up options available to support local businesses from the comfort and safety of your own home. This online platform was made possible with grant funding allocated to the BC Association of Farmers Markets from the provincial government.

Unger and the vendors are making plans for the summer on a more short-term basis, adjusting as new recommendations and rules are put in place. 

“There’s definitely an element of ‘go with the flow’. I’m trying not to think too far in advance. Things have been changing really rapidly since March,” Unger reflected, “I’m optimistic that we will be able to have all our vendors at the market over the summer.”

The Kamloops Farmers Market runs every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the 200 block of St. Paul street. The Wednesday Market runs from 8 a.m. to  2 p.m. on the 400 block of Victoria street in front of the TNRD Library. Online ordering is also available at localline.ca/kamloopsfarmersmarket.