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Kelowna Farmers' Market weathers negative public feedback with physical distancing protocols

A worker with Zelaney Farms demonstrates the Canadian way to accept electronic payments during a pandemic, using a hockey stick for extra reach.
A worker with Zelaney Farms demonstrates the Canadian way to accept electronic payments during a pandemic, using a hockey stick for extra reach.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Zelaney Farms

The Kelowna Farmers' and Crafters' Market opened two weeks ago outside the Parkinson Recreation Centre amidst criticism from some members of the public.

Market coordinator Frances Callaghan heard complaints from people concerned about physical distancing precautions and the market's ability to crowd control.

She said it didn't come as a surprise.

"We expected that, we understand the fear out there right now with COVID-19," Callaghan said. "We tried to just reassure them that we have put every protocol that has been asked of us in place."

The market has been working closely with Interior Health and the City of Kelowna, ensuring they are complying with all regulations. They have installed wash stations throughout the market, and put up signs urging shoppers to "shop, and go."

The market's 15 vendors wear masks and gloves, and all the lineups are marked for physical distancing.

"We have counters, so when people come through we count how many people have been through the market," Callaghan said. "We’re always crowd controlling, at all times."

They have two volunteers at both the entrance and the exit to the market.

Many customers are now ordering online. They pick up their produce from the market and leave immediately.

Now that many have had the opportunity to see how the Farmers' Market is adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, Callaghan said the feedback has become much more positive.

"Our customers are actually saying that they are so happy to see everything that we’ve done," she said. "People are really happy that we are back and we’re making it work for them."

Callaghan believes it all comes down to an educated awareness, pointing out it's important for the public to realize that this year's Farmers' Market is not the same as it has been in previous years.

The market is looking to move to its original outdoor lot beside Orchard Park Mall in May, closing the temporary location at Parkinson Rec. The extra space would allow for more vendors.

"The farmers still need to get that produce to the market," Callaghan said. "A lot of customers prefer to be buying local from the farmers and they know where the food is coming from."

As opposed to the grocery store, where shipments travel great distances and are frequently handled, produce at the Farmers' Market goes straight from the farm to your table. All produce is pre-packed before it arrives at the market.

"That was the main thing we’re trying to educate, there’s less hands touching everybody’s foods," Callaghan said. "The only person you have known to have touched it was the farmer that put it in that bag."

Farmers Markets have been designated essential services by the province. Following government directives, the vendors will only be selling fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts and liquor.

The market will be running at Parkinson Recreation Centre for the rest of the month, Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon, before it moves to its usual location at Springfield Road and Dilworth Drive.

To order from the Kelowna Farmers' Market online, click here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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