PEI

'We're still in business': How innovation has kept the Charlottetown Farmers' Market open

Closed, open, outside, inside, online — 2020 was a busy year of change for the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market. And there's more on the way in 2021.

‘The platform really allowed us to focus more of our energy on farming’

As well as dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the market building on Belvedere Avenue in Charlottetown underwent major renovations this year. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Closed, open, outside, inside, online —  2020 was a busy year of change for the Charlottetown Farmers' Market, with more on the way in 2021. 

"We're not at the numbers that we were pre-COVID, but we're still in business," manager Bernie Plourde told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier. 

"People are able to bring their product and feed the community."

Over the past 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market has closed, launched an online store, closed that store and opened another, reopened in the parking lot only, undertaken major renovations to the building, and reopened inside while maintaining online ordering for curbside pickup once a week.

More changes could be coming, says manager Bernie Plourde. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

That the market has been able to keep going through all of these changes has been important for Stephanie Dewar, co-owner of Morning Dew Gardens in Cornwall.

This was the farm's first full year of operation, and it was counting on the market to get the produce to customers. The pandemic meant in-person space wasn't available for Dewar's wares, but the farm was able to take part in the online store operation.

"The platform really allowed us to focus more of our energy on farming, and worry a lot less about our marketing strategy as the pandemic unfolded," said Dewar.

Through the summer, many Charlottetown Farmers' Market vendors opened shop on Saturdays in the market's parking lot. (Shane Ross/CBC)

"Having the website up and just how smoothly it ran for us… It was really big in helping us to actually access customers that wouldn't have known who we were to begin with."

There could be more changes coming at the market.

Plourde said they are continually on the watch for better online platforms. They are also investigating a second pickup location for the online store, possibly outside of Charlottetown, and the possibility of a delivery service.

Plourde is also hoping restrictions will ease enough by this summer for a live market to return on Wednesdays, as in the past.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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