Artisan vendors again allowed at Nicola Valley Farmers Market

·2 min read

As BC entered the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry tightened restrictions that had been relaxed during the warmer summer months when transmission rates of the virus were lower.

One of these restrictions, re-instated on Dec. 2, 2020, barred artisan vendors from selling their wares at Farmers’ Markets across the province in a move that deemed any vendor not selling food as ‘non-essential’.

Non-food vendors pushed back on this order, which came at a particularly difficult time as many were hoping to make up sales lost throughout an uncertain, pandemic-affected year by capitalizing on the busy Christmas shopping season.

Artisan vendors insisted that they would be able to sell their items as safely as their food vendor counterparts. Products would be appropriately packaged, customers would be expected to wear masks and use hand sanitizer, and social distancing would be maintained.

The Nicola Valley Farmers’ Market, which continued to operate through the pandemic, being deemed an essential service like all farmers’ markets around the province, recently published an open letter in support of allowing artisan vendors to return.

“Artisan Vendors are an integral part of farmers’ markets, and especially for small, rural markets, where artisans make up a large portion of the market,” reads the letter, penned by Nicola Valley Farmers’ Market Vice President, Lucas Handley.

“Without the whole ‘vendor family’ present, small markets run a real risk of folding. Markets are years of investments in time, education, and promotion, and they simply will not just reappear after the pandemic if they are lost to the pandemic.”

It appears that this plea did not fall upon deaf ears, as Dr. Bonnie Henry announced last week that artisan vendors would once again be permitted to set up at markets.

“It's news that so many people were waiting for," said Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham.

"The amount of public feedback we've gotten about this issue in particular has been quite strong."

“This is a huge relief for vendors as well as farmers’ markets as we prepare for our spring season,” said Handley, who expects the Nicola Valley Farmers’ Market to open in May.

“Being able to operate with all our vendors there makes the market a much more enjoyable experience and a great place for vendors and customers alike. And it supports the full spectrum of buy local.”

The Nicola Valley Farmer’s Market was particularly affected by the previous orders, as their vendor base is an estimated 50% non-food. The relaxing of these restrictions will mean a potential doubling in the number of shopping options for Merrittonians, all while maintaining a COVID-safe layout and experience.

Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald