Charlottetown Farmers' Market prepares to move back inside after renovations

The indoor portion of the Charlottetown Farmers' Market will reopen Saturday after renovations to the space and closures due to public health measures made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.

'A lot of people that come to the market every Saturday, they're market friends'

Masks will be mandatory for everyone as the Charlottetown Farmers' Market moves back inside. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Preparations are nearly complete as the Charlottetown Farmers' Market gets set to reopen the doors to the public for the first time since mid-March.

"We've been outside since June and we're coming inside for the fall and winter," said Bernie Plourde, the manager of the Charlottetown Farmers' Market Co-operative

Some of the time during the COVID-19 pandemic slowdown was used to do previously announced renovations to upgrade the Belvedere Avenue building's ventilation, plumbing and electrical systems.

Plourde said a new ventilation system and vent hoods for vendors who use stoves should improve air quality in the market. The ventilation system will also help warm the space in the winter and cool it in the summer.

Charlottetown Farmers’ Market Co-op manager Bernie Plourde says: 'It's our first go at it this week so I'm sure there'll be things that we'll have to touch up as we go along, but we're pretty anxious and we're ready for Saturday the 31.' (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The bathrooms may not be fully ready for the opening Saturday but Plourde said porta-potties will be on site.

Working with Public Health

Plourde said they have been working with public health officials to ensure the safety of guests and vendors.

Plastic barriers have been installed in some stalls to fight the spread of airborne virus particles. Masks will be mandatory within the building as well.

Instead of letting people wander around, arrows will indicate the only direction in which patrons will be allowed to walk

Plourde says they are asking people to shop with intent so that others waiting outside can enter in a timely manner. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Meals will be available, but only in take-out containers as the seating area will stay closed.

Plourde said visitors will not be allowed to bring their own mugs or reusable containers for vendors to fill; vendors will be using biodegradable containers.

"Food will still be cooked onsite and put into a package and given to you," Plourde said. "You just won't be able to sit inside the market to eat."

Glad to be back

Many of the vendors are excited to see the space reopen and welcome back familiar faces — even if they stay behind a mask.

"Very excited. It's nice being outside but it will be wonderful to be back inside," said John MacFarlane of South Shore Seaglass and Crafts.

John MacFarlane of South Shore Seaglass and Crafts holds up a picture from 1987 of himself working inside the current market location. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

He has worked at the Charlottetown Farmers' Market since the early 1980s — before it was in its current location.

"A lot of people that come to the market every Saturday, they're market friends," said MacFarlane. "It's nice to meet them and I am looking forward to renewing the friendships."

From shopper to vendor

For newer vendors, the move inside will be different from what they have seen so far.

"I have only ever been on the outside of the market so we're pretty excited to start our new adventure inside," said farmer Rachael Macaulay, with Crystal Green Farms.

‘People love to be able to see the farmer and they love to be able to see the produce that is coming out of the fields right in their backyard,' says Rachael Macaulay of Crystal Green Farms. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Busily preparing the stall for Saturday. Macaulay said she had previously made visiting a farmers' market part of her routine.

"I've always been going to the Summerside one, the Charlottetown one, all the time, every Saturday as a customer," Macaulay said.

"I have a lot of different friends who have farms, who are organic or non-organic, but it is just great for all the community to come together and support our local farmers."

Shoppers asked not to linger

Plourde said he is sad to lose some of the socializing aspect the market is known for, due to capacity limits. He asks that people come prepared to shop with intent. 

"Come in, get your groceries… say a friendly hello, but keep the lines moving because we may have people waiting to enter the market," Plourde said. 

"We can only allow a hundred at a time and if it gets cold outside, I'm not sure how many people will want to wait in lineup outside."

The market will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. As well, the market will continue to operate the online shopping service so that people can arrange for contactless pick-ups on Thursdays.

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