Creemore Farmers’ Market goes virtual
The Creemore Farmers’ Market (CFM) has been busy with contingency planning for a COVID-19 environment.
Farmers’ Markets Ontario (FMO) started lobbying OMAFRA to get them to agree that farmers’ markets were an essential service.
This proposal had support from other farming organizations, like the National Farmers Union. The decision to add farmers’ markets to the essential services was made in late March.
FMO started communication with Public Health of Ontario to develop a health and safety COVID-19 specific protocol that was agreed to by all public health units of Ontario. It was up to individual markets to get local approval to open in their location which in our case is municipal land, and then present their protocols to local public health inspectors for review and approval.
The next step that FMO took was to request funding to help markets go virtual. Research was done and there are two basic platforms that are available and able to accommodate farmers’ markets. One is Open Food Network (not for profit) and the other is Local Line (a proprietary business). FMO chose to work with Open Food Network (OFN) as it is not for profit, has bilingual capability, and was willing to work with FMO in the long term for the betterment of the food industry. Greenbelt Farmers’ Market which is a regional organization has chosen to work with Local Line.
Both CFM and the Mulmur Farmers’ Market were given the opportunity to list their markets on Open Food Network for six months for free, allowing markets to not increase their fees to be a part of this network. Both markets will list their paid up vendors on the platform.
There is still an opportunity to apply to the markets for a spot. All vendors who want to participate on this platform will be considered full-time vendors as it works for you even when you are not at the market.
How will it work: Customers who go to our website or Google to find a market will be directed to the market website. All our vendors will be listed there with a link to their online store. From the website you can also click on our virtual market and go straight to the OFN market page where again all of our vendors will be listed with their online store. You may then pick your products and pay for them. Then you choose from the options the vendor has provided as to how you will get your products. Our market protocols will be posted in The Echo once they are approved by Simcoe Muskoka Public Health. We will keep you up to date.
The vendors get to set up their online store with all their products whether available, not yet available, or sold out. It will provide inventory control so you can not oversell. You can set your week for Sunday to Thursday ordering. This allows you to pull all your orders together on Friday and deliver on Saturday to a designated pick up point which could eventually be the market when it opens. There is even a map option that shows you the best delivery route to hit all your customers.
Farmers do not have to be a member of the market to have an online store with OFN. You can have your own site which you manage and you will be charged a fee for having your site operational during the months you are doing business. The advantage of being part of a market is that customers tend to search for markets or are familiar with markets and can then easily find the vendor they want to deal with. The market will advertise to drive people to their website which then gets you found. Even if you do not attend a regular market you could now use that market as a drop off point for your pre-paid orders.
When the market opens we will be following very strict COVID-19 policy. The market will not be the usual spot for social gathering. It will not be business as usual. It will be very much like your local grocery store where you follow a directional flow to your vendor and pick up your prepaid order. There will be no backtracking or crisscrossing the market. We are asking the Public Health Inspector (PHI) and the police to be at the first market. Barriers will be up to ensure there is only one entry and exit point. Customers will have to have their paid invoice to access the market. We are planning for your safety and we hope you will plan for our safety as we bring fresh local less handled products to the market for you.
Currently we are looking at the end of June or the July long weekend to open. Watch The Echo and our website for updates. Check www.creemorefarmersmarket.ca and www.mulmurfarmersmarket.ca for the opening of our online stores with the products you have grown to love at your market.
Helen Martin is the interim manager of the Creemore and Mulmur farmers’ markets.