Local Farmers’ Markets take new approach to get underway

After consultations with Farmers’ Markets Ontario, local municipalities and the Grey Bruce Health Unit, organizers of the Flesherton and Thornbury farmers’ markets scrambled to deal with a dynamic situation, facing tight restrictions for businesses under a provincial state of emergency.

Despite being considered essential services, these markets were met with cautionary advice from a multitude of sources. Enter the Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network and the offer of a fully-funded e-commerce website for markets struggling to open this Spring.

A project funded by the Greenbelt Foundation, which aims to increase the success of farmers’ markets in our region, the organization has helped hundreds of markets transition to an online-ordering solution.

Using the website to take orders from customers weekly, the markets will assemble those orders for pickup each weekend. The new Flesherton and Thornbury farmers market websites are built on a sales and distribution platform designed for farmers and food producers from Local Line, a software development company based in Kitchener.

The website will have a wide selection of products for sale that the farmers’ markets are well known for, including produce and herbs, jams, breads, cheeses, meats, frozen meals, yarns, blankets, knitted throws, handmade jewellery and much more.

“We’ve had to get up-to-speed fast and be creative when it comes to working with current restrictions,” said Ron Barnett, market manager at both locations. “We had hoped to have both market pickups ready to go for the long weekend, but time, taking necessary precautions and Health Unit approvals got the better of us.”

When Grey Highlands staff indicated that they might not allow the market to operate a pickup location on municipal property while parks and amenities remain closed, Barnett struck an arrangement with nearby business owner Pankaj Desai to create an Plan B. Beginning Saturday, May 30, and every Saturday afterwards, orders from the Flesherton Market website can be picked up from Leela’s Villa Inn on highway 10, just across from Grey Highlands Secondary School between the hours of 10 am and 1 pm.

The Thornbury Farmers’ Market will use it’s established location at Smith Memorial Park in Thornbury, across the street from the Town of Blue Mountains office building, to operate pickup between 11am – 1pm each Sunday beginning May 31.

A minimum amount of contact with customers will be practiced and proper social distancing observed. Customers can drive up to the pickup location and receive their prepaid orders without ever needing to get out of their cars.

Fielding many questions from customers as to the status of both markets, Barnett has a positive message to share, ”It is our hope that we can eventually return to a more traditional market in each location but until that happens, we are grateful for everyone who has helped to get us this far,” said Barnett. “For now, we want our customers to be safe.”

To order your products from the Flesherton and District Farmers’ Market, visit http:// www.fleshertonfarmersmarket.ca.

To order from the Thornbury Farmers’ Market, visit https:// www.localline.ca/thornbury-farmers-market.