How you can still shop at your favourite N.S. farmers market during COVID-19
Several farmers markets across N.S. moving from physical spaces to online shopping model
Nova Scotia farmers markets are scrambling to get their products online so producers can stay afloat and people can continue to eat local during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farmers' Markets of Nova Scotia has urged all farmers markets in the province to close. The co-operative is now working with markets from Cape Breton to Yarmouth to quickly get their products online so that customers can begin picking up food by March 28.
Kelly Marie Redcliffe, manager of the Wolfville Farmers' Market, said everyone is in "action mode." Her market started selling local products online in 2017, and helped pioneer a model that's now becoming a lifeline for Nova Scotia farmers.
The market's online store, WFM2Go, currently has 35 vendors and Redcliffe said 10 more will be added over the coming days.
"I think my advice would be … you can do this," she said. "Everybody needs to bring their best selves to this situation. So leaders need to be clear, customers need to be patient, vendors need to work together."
Last year, the farmers market in Wolfville had an average of 58 online orders per week. This week, it more than doubled to 139 orders.
Justin Cantafio, executive director of Farmers' Markets of Nova Scotia, said buying food online instead of at a market is "extremely simple" and will have a huge impact on the survival of producers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, the province said there are two more presumptive cases of the virus, bringing the total number of cases to 14.
"Now is more important than ever to support our local producers," Cantafio told CBC's Information Morning. "Nova Scotia is sitting on so much food and excellent products that we can connect Nova Scotians with right now."
Cantafio said all the farmers markets are taking "extreme precautions" to make sure people can safely pick up food at one of the drop-off locations.
"If you are looking for food, there are very few safer places than working with a team of individuals that already have lots of experience handling food in a safe way," he said.
Redcliffe said people at the Wolfville Farmers' Market who get together to pack the food into boxes practise social distancing and follow their normal food-safety protocols.
"We don't have to change much because we are already very food-safety conscious," she said. "It's just maybe everybody is more vigilant."
The Wolfville Farmers' Market is now having two pick-up days a week, instead of one, she said.
Cantafio said people can call their local farmers market to place an order. The following farmers markets are in the process of moving online:
- Wolfville Farmers' Market.
- Halifax Brewery Farmers' Market.
- Truro Farmers' Market.
- New Glasgow Farmers Market.
- Lunenburg Farmers' Market.
- Cape Breton Farmers' Market.
- Annapolis Royal Farmers and Traders Market.
- Annapolis Royal Winter Farmers Market.
- New Digby Farmers' Market.
- Yarmouth Farmers' Market.
What's happening in Cape Breton
In Cape Breton, the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub is partnering with Farmers' Markets of Nova Scotia.
"We have a lot of small farmers that produce food for restaurants. So right now with the restaurants shut down, that's leaving a big gap also, so a lot of people are really in serious need of new markets," said Alicia Lake, executive director of the Pan Cape Breton Food Hub.
The hub connects Cape Breton producers with customers through its online order and delivery network, and now it's opening up that service to food vendors at the Cape Breton Farmers' Market, but artisan goods could follow.
"If this extends past two to three weeks, we'll look at rolling out the rest of the products online. But for now we're just focusing on food and making sure that it's accessible to people," said Pauline Singer, manager of the Cape Breton Farmers' Market.
In Cape Breton, volunteers and a local delivery company will share the work of dropping off food orders at the doorstep to customers in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Baddeck and Ingonish. The weekly order and delivery cycle begins this Friday.
Cantafio said there are plans to expand door-to-door delivery around the province in the next couple of weeks, but for now, the majority of Nova Scotians will pick up food at designated locations.
With files from CBC's Information Morning and Holly Conners