The Kemptville Farmers Market (KFM) is back in action after an uncertain start to the season. KFM Manager, Stacey Johnson, says that, up until about a month ago, they didn’t think they would be able to have an open-air market at all this summer. “We were looking at online options,” she says.

The KFM team were in constant contact with the Health Unit and were surprised and delighted when they said they could go ahead with a market in the B&H parking lot. They started planning in the third week of May, and they held their first market of the year on June 14, a month later than they would have usually started.

Stacey says that they were happy to be able to welcome not only produce vendors, but other producers as well to the first market. The market saw 19 vendors, which included everything from honey and maple syrup, to eggs, meat, baked goods and, of course, lots of fresh local produce. The market is running at a reduced capacity to allow for at least six feet between each station, and can host around 25 vendors every Sunday.

KFM board members worked hard in the weeks leading up to the market to make sure it would be a safe and pleasant place to shop. A directional flow has been implemented at the market to make sure people don’t wander randomly between the tables. They also put a limit of around 30 people at a time in the market area, to allow for physical distancing.

Vendors were told to ensure they can keep their distance from their customers, and each table has either hand sanitizer, or a wash station. No food can be prepared or eaten in the market footprint, and everything must be sold pre-packaged this year.

“Our slogan is shop, don’t stop,” Stacey says. “We’re not allowing people to linger, or pop in and out.”

Stacey was pleasantly surprised at the turn out for the first market. By 11:30 am, they had a line up of people eager to start shopping, and the line didn’t let up until after 3:00 pm. “Some vendors said it rivaled some of their busiest days in other seasons,” she says. “They are all very grateful to be back.”

She is glad to have the market up and running for the rest of the season to help the local farmers and producers who work so hard all year round. The KFM is always looking for volunteers to help with set up and tear down and to support vendors throughout the market, especially with the added sanitizing practices needed for their COVID-19 protocol. Stacey says it is a great way for students to get their volunteer hours. “We had one kid [at the first market] in Grade 11 who was fantastic.”

Chair Joanne Krock says they are encouraging advance orders with all vendors listed on their website. Joanne feels pre-ordering may continue post-pandemic. “It’s a good thing and planning ahead helps vendors too. It will be the best of both worlds. You have to reach out and try every way to contact your customers,” says Joanne. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

Helping customers get in touch with Farmers’ Market vendors has led Darlene Collin, of Kemptville, to start an online shopping service mylocalmarkets.ca to help small operations who may otherwise not be online. “It started as a passion project,” says Darlene, adding the number of vendors has grown from 13 to 40 over the past weeks. Her site includes a large number of products from farms and shops, including Merrickville locations.

“The customers have been so happy with the food and products. We will keep doing it as long as people want the service,” she says. “Hopefully it will continue on and keep people shopping local”.

The market will be running, rain or shine, every Sunday from 12 pm-4 pm until the end of October.

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