Ottawa

Quiet start during COVID-19 for Ottawa Farmers' Market

The Ottawa Farmers' Market made its debut into the COVID-19 world Sunday at Lansdowne Park, but things were a bit less busy than organizers hoped. 

Many produce vendors still trying to organize online selling

People wait to pick up their pre-ordered items at the Lansdowne Park location of the Ottawa Farmers' Market on May 31, 2020. The market looks much different this year due to physical distancing rules put in place to halt the spread of COVID-19. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

The Ottawa Farmers' Market made its debut into the COVID-19 world Sunday, but things were quieter than organizers hoped. 

Lansdowne Park was the first of the four Ottawa Farmers' Market locations to open under new physical distancing rules, and it looked a lot different from usual — with people checking in at pre-booked time slots to pick up pre-ordered items from each vendor.

Patrons had to follow direction signs and keep safe distances. Organizers said they had to turn people away who didn't pre-book a time.

"It's been a quiet morning. We've had some bookings that were cancelled," said chair Jocelyne Garland, chair of the Ottawa Farmers' Market Association.

Patrons line up to sign in to the Ottawa Farmers' Market at Lansdowne Park on May 31, 2020, the first day the market was open this year. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

Garland said some produce farmers are finding the new system challenging because they aren't used to selling online, and the unpredictable nature of farming can make it hard to fill pre-orders.

"We didn't have as many customers as we had expected, just because some of the vendors are still struggling to get their online platforms to work smoothly," she said. "And some customers decided to wait until the next week so that more produce would be available."

Even so, of the 960 booking slots market patrons could sign up for Sunday, approximately 900 were claimed, Garland said. There are 80 bookings available each half-hour.

Jocelyne Garland, chair of the Ottawa Farmers' Market Association, said they're working with Ottawa Public Health to find ways to make the market work better during COVID-19. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

Mixed reviews 

The new process got both positive and negative reviews from those who showed up Sunday. 

"I feel like they need to get more organized, with the ordering through one portal and one payment for all the vendors, and let the farmers farm and not design websites," said Anne Schmitz, who was there picking up items from one seller.

Others like Fiona D'arcy said it was a good experience — although different. 

"I was very excited ... I grabbed the time spot right away," said D'arcy.

"[It's] very smooth. There's lots of space, so I didn't feel uncomfortable … and it was really easy to pick the different vendors online and just show them my order number and get the items."

Garland said the market is working with Ottawa Public Health to see if some restrictions can be lifted in the future to allow for an experience that's closer to normal.

About the Author

Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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