UPDATE March 27: The market has received approval for regular Thursday markets at Tipperary Park. See a new story here.
The New West Farmers Market is looking for ways to make the market happen in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The market was forced to cancel its last planned event, which would have taken place this past Saturday (March 21) on Belmont Street. Farmers’ markets around B.C. found themselves up against the new provincial regulations banning gatherings of more than 50 people, and the New West market initially announced it would have to cancel its markets until at least May 30.
Now, however, the New West market is hoping to restructure itself so it can still offer fresh produce and other food to local residents, but without a mass gathering.
The issue arose at a special New Westminster city council meeting held Monday (March 23) to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Coun. Nadine Nakagawa suggested the city work with the market to try to find a way to make it happen, given that the market is both a source of food for local residents and a way to support farmers who have crops that won’t keep.
Councillors noted that the market wouldn’t need to run as a typical gathering, with entertainment and kids’ activities, but could rather serve as a hub for people to pick up food.
At the meeting, council directed staff to work with the market to try to find ways to operate in a manner that follows provincial health directives.
Lily Nichol, market manager, told the Record in an interview Wednesday that she has since been in conversation with the city.
“We are talking to the city right now about what we need to implement to safely have a farmers market,” she said, adding the market has an important role to play right now. “We’re part of a necessary food chain for the community.”
That’s all the more important at this moment, she said, when anxiety over shopping for supplies is high.
“Grocery stores seem to be weirdly empty as they’ve never been before,” she said.
Right now, she said, the market is working with the city to figure out an outdoor location that would work. Normally, its winter market sessions run on the first and third Saturdays of the month on Belmont Street, uptown, but the market now needs to seek out a location with enough space that people can be separated in a lineup and not crowded together around stalls.
Nichol noted she’s also chatted with the city about the possibility of teaming up with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, which has lost its New West distribution centre at Olivet Baptist Church due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
She said they’re exploring the possibility that the two groups could share the same outside space. The events would be held at separate times, to help reduce the number of people in one space, but both groups could be jointly responsible for the space.
She’s been working with Fraser Health officials, who, she said, have been “very responsive and very helpful” on ways to make it all happen in accordance with provincial health directives.
She’s hopeful that a new market can get up and running as soon as possible – and likely more frequently than the twice a month it would normally run.
Nichol noted the goal is to make the market work for both vendors – who, she pointed out, are deeply affected by market closures around B.C. – and customers in the city.
“We’re just really flexible,” she said.
The Record will continue to follow this story as news develops. Watch www.newwestrecord.ca for details. You can also follow the New West Farmers Market on Twitter and Instagram, @newwestfarmers, and on Facebook at @NewWestFarmersMarket.
In the meantime, you can support New West Farmers Market vendors by ordering directly from them. Check out a list of options at https://newwestfarmers.ca/shop-direct/