BCAFM Response to COVID-19 & Resources

BCAFM continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic closely. We will provide updates and resources as they relate to farmers’ markets and our members.

 

Last updated: October 14, 2020

BCAFM Response

BCAFM & COVID-19: Looking Back & Moving Forward

Our Journey So Far

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our member farmers’ markets have been proactive and demonstrated great leadership in their communities. From modifying market operations to opening online markets, BC farmers’ markets have demonstrated just how resilient they are. Most importantly, like always, they took concrete steps to ensure local food reaches their communities, collectively strengthening our local food system.

Behind the scenes and from our homes, the BCAFM team has been advocating, developing initiatives, and communicating with members to navigate our new normal.

Highlights of what we have accomplished so far: 

  • Throughout the pandemic, BCAFM has supported and promoted its 145+ member farmers’ markets. This includes 60+ physical markets with modified operations and 60+ online markets, and by 2020 peak season, BCAFM is expecting 100+ summer markets and 70+ online markets.
  • Advocated for the recognition of farmers’ markets as an essential service.
  • Advocated for the return of non-food vendors to farmers’ markets.
  • Worked in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, BCCDC and other key stakeholders to communicate clearly the most current measures and recommendations to modify operations at farmers’ markets and guidance on communicating these modifications. These webpages continue to be updated based on current health orders and recommendations, as well as through feedback from members, vendors and the public.
  • Between March 16, 2020 and May 29, 2020, BCAFM sent out 23 member e-news dedicated to COVID-19 to update farmers’ market and vendor members with the latest information.
  • Developed the BC Farmers’ Markets Online initiative to provide member markets  access to a reliable and user-friendly online platform (identified Local Line). By securing $85,000 ($55,000 from the Ministry of Agriculture and $20,000 from Vancity Credit Union), BCAFM was able to cover the fees and support 70+ member markets (including spring/summer/fall and winter markets) in operating an online market this season.
  • Successfully applied to the Buy BC Partnership Program to support and promote the BC Farmers’ Markets Online initiative and farmers’ markets selling through an online market (promotional tools to be shared with members soon).
  • Secured funding from the Ministry of Health so that the FMNCP program could run at modified farmers’ markets this season.
  • More than 200 mentions of BC farmers’ markets in local, regional and provincial media outlets.
  • 100+ BCAFM posts on Facebook & Instagram with a reach of 220,000 people

Our Journey Ahead

As member markets continue to modify their operations and were limited to food only vendors, we understand that the work and time required from market organizers has increased while operating revenues have been reduced. In order for the BCAFM to plan the future collaboratively with its members, we prepared a short survey to gather information and suggestions member markets have so that we can better support them and develop the next steps as we move together through this extraordinary season and year. Results are upcoming.

 

Please find below our official updates.

Markets may sell food and non-food items: The Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, made the announcement today, May 28, 2020, that the April 16, 2020 order prohibiting non-food vendors of selling at in person (physical) markets is now lifted. Read more on Vending Merchandise at Markets (PHO Order May 28, 2020) 

The BCCDC has officially updated their position and have now included a farmers’ market page on their website. This page shares the updated measures required to modify your markets (which are subject to change) to comply with BCCDC direction and the recommendations and orders from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), including physical distancing, restricted activities, enhanced hygiene, and other measures.

Very important is the following market modification: Markets may sell ONLY FOOD which includes fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts, liquor.

Additionally, the BCCDC webpage replaces the previous BCCDC letter shared, but the BCCCDC initial position on the following still stands:

“Farmers’ markets are not currently considered a high risk setting for the transmission of COVID-19. Farmers markets’ are usually held outdoors and there are usually a limited number of people in any one area at the same time.”

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We are delighted to share today’s press release from the Ministry of Agriculture in regards to supporting markets going virtual through our BC Farmers’ Markets Online initiative.

“The B.C. government is providing $55,000 to the BCAFM to cover fees for individual farmers markets to join the online platform and set up their digital market store presence. Each participating farmers market will create its own virtual market store to best serve its communities.

The funding is part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Buy BC program. Buy BC helps farmers, ranchers and producers market their products as locally grown, raised, harvested or produced, making it easy for British Columbians to Buy BC.”

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Read below the except of today’s Joint statement on Province of B.C.’s COVID-19 response:

“We know that our community and farmers markets are an important source of fresh food. We are heartened that, with the support of funding from the provincial government, many markets are shifting to an online model. We remind market organizers that a public gathering order is in place and physical distancing measures must be followed.

“Further, to reduce the potential for transmission and ensure local, B.C.-grown food can continue to reach customers, a provincial health officer order has been issued, effective immediately.

“All occasional/recurring/weekly events where food and other merchandise is sold (e.g., markets, street markets, night markets, Saturday markets or community markets) must only allow vendors that sell food to be at these events. Vendors of non-food items and all other merchandise are prohibited to sell at these events.

Farmers’ markets have been declared an essential service by the Government of BC. These services include under retail: grocery stores, convenience stores, and farmers markets.

“Essential services are those daily services essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.

They are the services British Columbians rely on in their daily lives. Developed by Emergency Management BC in consultation with other government ministries and the provincial health officer (PHO), this definition is intended to clarify what qualifies as an essential service in the context of the Province’s response to COVID-19. In consultation with the PHO, these services should and are encouraged to remain open.”

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) have been in contact with the regional health authorities to discuss BCAFM’s concern over farmers’ markets that are on municipal lands and their decisions to cancel individual market locations. As these are municipal decisions, public health will not interfere with those local decisions. The BCCDC encourages us, the BCAFM, and the farmers’ markets to continue the discussion at the municipality level. If the municipality has any public health questions, they can reach out to their local health authority as needed.

BCAFM will be monitoring the different measures taken by farmers’ markets, and will update its online webpages as the situation evolves. Please continue sharing with us the measures you are taking at your market via email at info@bcfarmersmarket.org to share information, questions and concerns that are relevant to all member farmers’ markets.

As we continue to help our members respond to COVID-19, we would first like to reiterate that farmers’ markets are first and foremost food retail establishments for people to purchase food while supporting local farmer and producer livelihoods. Generally held outdoors, they are not considered a high risk for transmission.

In response to the progressing situation, BCAFM has created a COVID Task Force with staff and board to meet regularly. This will ensure that we can meet the needs of our members and provide support as the issue evolves. We remain in contact with the Province of BC and BC Centre for Disease Control to continue providing updates, tools, and resources (see below).

We strongly believe in the value of farmers’ markets to BC communities and the local food system, especially in these times of uncertainty. Which is why we are inspired by the innovative approaches markets and their vendors are exploring to ensure that residents will be able to continue to access fresh, healthy, local food, such as online pre-ordering, encouraging shorter market visits, and delivery.

While we do not have all the answers, we encourage you to reach out to us if you have any questions, concerns or wish to share ideas or stories of how your farmers’ market is making important adjustments to continue providing food in its community. We can be reached at info@bcfarmersmarket.org. Collectively, we will come through stronger on the other side of this.

As our markets operate exclusively in British Columbia, BCAFM will take cues and guidance on COVID-19 from the most relevant sources including the Province of BC and the Federal Government of Canada.

The vast majority of BCAFM member markets will launch the 2020 season beginning this May onwards, however, there are number of markets currently operating today during the shoulder season. Things are shifting day by day and we all need to be proactive now and prepare for what could be a more challenging farmers market season.

Resources

The situation is evolving every day, and we also understand that you may have questions on the impacts this might have and where you can get the support you need. While we do not have all the answers, we encourage you to explore the resources below. We will update the following information as the situation evolves.

If there is something not addressed here or you still have questions, get in touch with us at info@bcfarmersmarket.org.

BC Farmers’ Market operators and vendors are actively modifying their market operations in accordance with the direction set by the Provincial Health Officer and BC Centre for Disease Control. They will also continue to operate using FOODSAFE and MarketSafe best practices, as prescribed by provincial health authorities.

Visit our Modifying Farmers’ Market Operations page to learn more about how BCAFM member farmers’ markets are actively modifying their operations to prioritize health and safety for all while continuing to provide fresh, local food and BC products.

Non-Medical Support for COVID-19

Non-medical information about COVID-19 is available 7:30am-5pm, 7 days a week at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) or via text message at 604-630-0300.

Visit the Provincial Website
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