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Farmers' market adds safety measures to start season

While Airdrie Farmers’ Market will be able to start its season on schedule, a number of changes have been implemented this year to address safety concerns related to COVID-19.
The Airdrie Farmers Market will open for shoppers to purchase fresh produce and other items, but new measures have been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. File Photo/Airdrie City View

While the Airdrie Farmers’ Market will be able to start its season on schedule, a number of changes have been implemented this year to address safety concerns related to COVID-19.

“We’re so fortunate to be able to open this market,” said Manager Candice Kolson. “There are so many businesses that are really relying on this, so we’re just asking people to be patient and polite and follow the rules.”

Airdrie Farmers' Market will commence its season June 3, running from 3:30 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday. On opening day, Kolson said, customers will be limited to a single entrance and exit on the north end of the market at First Avenue.

While the market is usually a great outing for the family, this year, Kolson said households are asked to only send one person to the market to shop, in an attempt to limit the number of people at the market.

“It’s difficult for us to do that, because we’re very much a family-oriented business,” she said. “In the grand scheme of things, we want people to bring their families down, but that rule, if we were to open tomorrow, would be the best rule to have in place.”

To start the season, there will not be a limit on the number of people allowed into the market, but Kolson said that may change if bottlenecks or long lineups start to become a problem.

“We’re playing it by ear,” she said.

At the market, booths will be spaced further apart than in past years, and vendors will be required to regulate the lines at their booths to ensure customers are adhering to physical distancing guidelines.

“We’re also asking people to obey the rules of traffic,” Kolson said. “As you’re moving forward, keep right so that people who may want to pass you will keep left. That way, hopefully, with our extra wide aisles, we will be able to maintain social distancing.”

Although the Airdrie Farmers’ Market has been mostly a cash-only shopping experience in the past, Kolson said this year, each vendor will have to decide how they will manage payment.

Kolson said the market will open half an hour early for seniors, allowing them to shop from 3 to 3:30 p.m. This will be strictly enforced, she added, and people who are not seniors will be stopped at the gate during that period.

Masks are not mandatory at the moment, but anyone who is sick should stay home, Kolson said – especially if they have symptoms associated with COVID-19.

“Please, please stay home if you think you’re sick,” she said. “Even if you think it’s just a common cold, please don’t put others at risk.”

Kolson added direction from Alberta Health Services changes frequently, and the measures in place opening day may be modified over the course of the summer.

“What we open with may not be what it looks like a few weeks after that,” she said. “We’re just trying to adapt to every change as it comes our way.”

Unfortunately, many vendors will not take part in the market this year. Kolson said many businesses are struggling and have had to decide where to focus their efforts, whether it be a store-front or online store. This has resulted in approximately half the number of vendors signing up to participate in the market compared to a normal year.

“Opening day, our target is at least 30 [vendors], whereas last year, I would have [said] 65 to 70,” Kolson said.

The pandemic has also caused a number of Airdrie Farmers’ Market events to be cancelled. The annual Spring Fling, which is usually the market’s first event of the year, was nixed in April. Popular Food Truck Frenzy events have also been cancelled for June, and may be for the entire the summer.

“We just don’t feel it’s safe to drive thousands of people down to the farmers market right now,” Kolson said.

Many food trucks that normally would have been involved in the events are not operating this year. Kolson indicated she is trying to figure out a way to hold a drive-through food truck event, but details have not been solidified.

Updates about the farmers market can be found on its Facebook page.

Ben Sherick,
Follow me on Twitter @BenSherick

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