The Skeena Valley Farmers Market is switching to an online format this summer.
Farmers’ markets were recently declared an essential service by the BC Centre for Disease Control, so physical markets are still allowed, provided they follow social-distancing rules. But those social-distancing rules would be tough to manage, said Margo Peill, manager of the Skeena Valley Farmers Market.
“It would be really complicated to get our market down … to under 50 people,” she said, adding that the market typically hosts “over 75 vendors, and hundreds of visitors and shoppers” each Saturday of the market season.
The essential service designation only applies to food vendors, so a physical market this year would have to exclude other vendors such as craft makers. Switching to an online market allows all vendors to participate, said Peill.
“That is just really all part of the appeal of the farmers’ market, is how many vendors there are and the variety of different products that are available,” she said.
The online market will launch in early May. It will be hosted on a site called Local Line, which is a pre-existing web software platform designed specifically for food producers trying to reach local markets.
There will be a unified web page where customers can browse all products available from the Skeena Valley Farmers Market, Peill said, as well as individual pages for specific vendors. Pick-up or delivery arrangements will be arranged by individual vendors.
The BC Association of Farmers’ Markets is helping farmers’ markets throughout B.C. as they transition to Local Line, aided by a $55,000 grant from the provincial government intended to cover Local Line fees.
Peill said the online market will run for at least one month, but it can be available for the entire summer season if necessary.
Vicky Serafini, owner of Thimbleberry Farm in Terrace, said as soon as the COVID-19 situation became serious, she received messages from community members who expressed interest in buying locally-produced food.
She initially made preparations to conduct business through her independent website, but she was glad when the opportunity arose to continue participating in the farmers’ market.
“The Skeena Valley Farmers Market is really important to us, not only as a local food hub but also just as a great community space,” she said. “We’re pretty determined to participate in any way we can.”