/Strong season for farmers’ market despite COVID-19
Vendors at the Haliburton County Farmers’ Market are thankful to shoppers who supported them this summer as they put measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Measures such as masks, additional spacing between stalls and directional signage helped keep the venue safe. /DARREN LUM Staff

Strong season for farmers’ market despite COVID-19

By Darren Lum

As the Haliburton County Farmers’ Market nears the end of their year, the vendors and organizers thank shoppers for the season’s success.

Farmers’ market president and Minden farmer Andrew Graham said it’s important the public knows how appreciative he and the other vendors are of the shoppers.

“We’re very thankful to the public for coming out and supporting us. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Graham said this year was a success for him and the other vendors because of the fact that it happened at all.

“I think they did good and they were happy to be there. I think a lot of people at the start of this whole thing were scared there wasn’t going to be a market, period. I think if you look into it there were spots in Toronto and elsewhere in the province where markets didn’t open, period,” he said.

The first farmers’ market this year, held in Minden on June 13, was delayed due to coronavirus prevention restrictions. As in other years, three markets a week were held, one day in Minden, one day in Haliburton and one day in Stanhope. COVID-19 protocols were observed including keeping attendance to assist in contact tracing, if it were necessary.

As a vendor for the past seven years, Graham said getting to sell his produce at the three locations provides access to buyers beyond the retailers he sells to and at his farm gate on Bobcaygeon Road in Minden. It was a strong year for him and most farmers in the area because the public was actively looking for locally grown food, he said.

The market will continue to the Thanksgiving weekend.

Haliburton potter Sharon Lynch was happy to have been allowed to sell her work at the market. Initially, artists were unable to be part of the market, with permission given after about a month following the opening of the market.

She said sales this season far exceeded her other years with the market, though she hasn’t yet tabulated the numbers.

Lynch said she wasn’t sure why the market sales were so strong.
“I think people are just happy [to be out]. What I’ve heard [from people] is it’s good to be able to get out. Maybe they’re treating themselves. Maybe they haven’t spent any money and they come here and are spending it. I don’t know,” she said.

When the market first opened this year, vendors weren’t allowed to sell cooked food, which is key for shoppers, many of whom are drawn to the market because of it, Graham said.

For some vendors it’s a large part of the season’s income.

Edilicious’s Jen Smith, who’s been selling her cheese appetizers, marinades and sauces at the market for close to six years, said getting to sell her crowd favourite falafels starting in July was important to her bottom line.

The Minden-based vendor appreciated the customers, but was confounded by the direction from provincial government and health units.

“The biggest problem is that public health is not all on the same page,” she said. “… No one wants to take responsibility. You can do this in one place [governed by one health unit] and you can’t do it in another place [under the jurisdiction of another health unit].”

Edilicious owner Jen Smith takes an order at the farmers’ market in Haliburton earlier this month. She said she couldn’t be more thankful to her customers. Smith said getting the permission to sell cooked food at the market was delayed this season and she didn’t understand why when she was permitted to sell it in Muskoka at the same time. /DARREN LUM Staff

It was challenging to be restricted from selling cooked food at the market when other food vendors in the same region could sell their food on the street.

“It’s a bit discouraging when you see other people selling at different places and there’s no indication you can. And when that’s 40 per cent of your income, you know, I don’t get it,” she said.

For example, early in the summer, she could sell her falafels at a farmers’ market in Gravenhurst, but she couldn’t sell them in Haliburton County.

She was only able to sell her falafels locally once the region entered into phase three of the province’s reopening plan.

The busy period for the market has traditionally been July and August, as there are fewer people frequenting the market in September and October.

Even without adding up the numbers, Smith has the feeling this year was particularly good, helping to make up for the delayed and then the staggered start related to selling her falafels at the market.

Smith can’t stress enough how thankful she and the other vendors are for the customers.

“I don’t think customers really realize how thankful we are, especially this year, that it’s been a good market year,” she said.