“It feels good,” said Aartje den Boer, Vankleek Hill Farmers Market Association president, as she relaxed in the shade of her display-and-sale booth. “The weather’s good. It’s a nice start.”
The VKH Farmers Market is located at its new site in the parking lot area of the former municipal daycare on Derby Street, adjacent to the Vankleek Manor. The township gave the association permission to use the parking lot area as a temporary summer location until the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) allows the farmers market to return to its usual site on the grounds of the Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute. The UCDSB has temporarily suspended all community use of its school properties during the pandemic.
The VKH Farmers Market is a bit smaller for now as it is limited to offering just food items for sale, either locally grown in-season vegetables and fruit and locally raised meat, or home-baked goods and other locally made food items like Kevin’s Ice Cream’s specialty ice cream cups. The limitation is part of the provincial government’s continued restriction on nonessential business as part of its pandemic protection plan though that is starting to loosen up now under Phase of the Ontario economic recovery plan.
The farmers’ market is also following social distancing and other public health guidelines set by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit for its operation. Vendor booths are spaced about two metres apart, there is a “traffic control” limit on the number of people allowed on site to browse, and handwashing stations are set up for use.
“It’s a bit more of a challenge,” said Den Boer, “but it was very generous of the health unit to allow us to have a browsing market as well as a curbside service.”
But despite all that, the traffic in and out of the farmers' market was steady and that makes Den Boer and other farmers market members optimistic.
“We have a really great variety of producers,” she said. “We have in-season produce, artisanal chicken, pork and smoked meats. We have room for a beef vendor too. Our setup here is really great as a walkable market.”
The Vankleek Hill Farmers Market will be open every Saturday. The association has a list of vendors operating on its website along with information on how to do pre-orders for curbside pickup on market day.