“It’s getting better now,” said Aartje den Boer, president of the VKH Farmers’ Market Inc., during the Saturday morning setup at the market’s current Derby Street location.
The market, like many other business-oriented operations, is still limited to half-capacity for the number of people allowed on the grounds at any hour of the day Saturday. But the Step 3 guidelines that took effect midnight July 16 which now apply to farmers market operations give more hope to both the vendors and their customers that things will soon get back to normal as vaccination protection against COVID-19 progresses.
While both vendors and customers still have to wear masks for the indoor portion of any farmers’ market, including the one at Vankleek Hill, the use of masks is only mandatory for vendors at their booths for the outdoor part of the market. Customers can choose to wear a mask or not while browsing the fresh produce and other food items at a booth, though they still must obey social distancing guidelines.
Den Boer noted that the pandemic, while it had some impact on the VKH Farmers’ Market, did not force the popular community weekend event to shut down altogether. While the main emphasis during the pandemic remains offering fresh food, whether locally-grown produce or baked goods and other homemade foodstuffs, some of the group’s artisan members are now able to display their craftwork or art pieces for sale since the end of the last lockdown period.
“And we have more (vendors) coming on board as the season progresses,” said Den Boer. “Other than the challenges of COVID-19, it has been an excellent season. People still want to buy local, and their interest in fresh food has increased. We (farmers markets) were declared an essential service last year by the government, because we are part of the food chain. We (farmers) are the ones who grow the food.”