Quiet start during COVID-19 for Ottawa Farmers' Market
Many produce vendors still trying to organize online selling
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.
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.
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.