This farmers market has turned a shutdown into a booming online business
Wolfville Farmers' Market 2Go in the Annapolis Valley has seen online orders surge amid pandemic
Farmers markets across Nova Scotia have been shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but it isn't stopping one in the Annapolis Valley from stepping up its game.
The Wolfville Farmers' Market is selling produce online through its 2Go program and in the past two weeks has seen orders skyrocket from a weekly average of about 58 all the way to 294, according to manager Lindsay Clowes.
The market's online program began three years ago and usually does orders only once a week. But now it has stepped up to twice weekly and will continue to do so as long as the COVID-19 physical distancing rules are in place.
But those rules are making it tough to fill orders.
"Before, we could call in as many volunteers as we wanted, but now with social distancing we have shifts of volunteers coming in and shifts of vendors coming in to keep people spaced out," said Clowes. "It's more orders and less people to pack them up."
The packing process begins at 6:30 a.m. at the Wolfville Farmers' Market building on Elm Street. Clowes keeps a close eye on who is coming and going to ensure the numbers and spacing are in line with two-metre distancing regulations.
Vendors are given specific time slots to bring their goods. Without the online delivery service, they would have few options.
"Now that the public markets in the province are closed, the online market has sort of been a lifeline," said Jocelyn Durston of Seven Acres Farm and Ferments in Canning, N.S. "Almost everything I'm moving these days is through this venue."
Durston's products include sauerkrauts, pickles and kombucha. She is one of 35 producers selling 300 products, ranging from fruits and vegetables, to dairy, eggs and meats, through the online market. The market also has a licence to sell alcohol from local wineries and craft breweries.
Deliveries are made on Wednesdays and Saturdays to 10 pickup locations, including several in the Halifax area.
"This whole crisis has really highlighted for us just how important it is and it's become a big part of our diet," said Grant MacNeil, who picked up his order this week on Portland Street in Dartmouth, N.S.
"I think there are a lot of front-line workers doing a great job keeping things safe in grocery stores. But I really appreciate the fact here it is coming straight from the farm, is packed in a box and delivered here, there aren't too many hands involved in it."
At pickup locations, orange pylons are placed on the sidewalk two metres apart to indicate where people should stand to observe physical distancing rules as they wait in line.
Orders are taken from a van packed to the roof with bins and placed on a large table more than two metres from the vehicle. No money is exchanged as orders are pre-paid and customers use their own bags.
"Customers use hand sanitizer and take their food out of the bin, and when they are done we sanitize the table and then the next customer comes up," said Clowes. "It's completely different from how we used to do things."