BC Farmers’ Markets & COVID-19: Modifying Market Operations

BCAFM is working with authorities and monitoring the different measures taken by farmers’ markets. We will update the following information as the situation evolves.

At this time, it is imperative to remember that farmers’ markets are first and foremost essential food retail establishments for people to purchase food while supporting local farmer and producer livelihoods. Learn more here on how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic at your farmers’ market by rethinking and modifying market operations with this framing.

 

Last updated: April 1, 2020

Modifying Your Market

With direction from the BC Centre for Disease Control and Provincial Health Officer, the following are modifications for your market at this time (subject to change):

Physical Distancing

  1. Limit gatherings to 50 people or less within a farmers’ market area in small market spaces that allows for a minimum separation of 2 metres between individuals and family groups. In large market spaces that may include several streets or blocks, cordon off areas and limit access to allow for 2 metre separation between individuals and physical distancing within those spaces.  Poster here.
  2. Minimize entry and exit points to control the number of customers. A single entry and exit location is the best way to manage the number of customers.
  3. Manage line-ups into the market to meet physical distancing requirements of 2 metres between individuals and family groups.
  4. Direct traffic through the market through the use of chalk or tape markings on the ground, ropes, barriers or other markers as required.
  5. Vendors will set-up with adequate distance between booths.
  6. Create an environment in the market where customers can practice safe physical distancing of 2 metres.
  7. Provide hand-washing facilities and access to hand sanitizers.

Restricted Activities, Enhanced Hygiene, and Additional Measures

  1. Markets may sell only food which includes fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts, and liquor.
  2. Markets must discontinue all food sampling activities, including by the glass sales of wine or other alcohols.
  3. Markets must cancel activities that promote gatherings, such as demonstrations, live musicians etc.
  4. Market vendors selling ready-to-eat foods must package foods into take-away containers or brown bags and post signs advising customers to not eat foods in the markets to comply with physical distancing requirements.
  5. Markets must increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection. This includes increased cleaning and disinfection of washroom areas and high touch surfaces within the market.
  6. Markets must restrict entry to anyone who is ill; vendors, if they are ill, should not attend and customers who are ill should also be advised to not enter the farmers’ market.
  7. Farmers’ market guidelines can be found on the BCCDC website. As with any foods prepared at home for sale at the market, if you are ill, or someone in your household is ill, do not prepare or package foods, including low risk foods.
  8. Establish pick-up points in farmers’ markets (for e.g., drive-thru pick-up where feasible) for online orders.
  9. Where feasible create cashless payment systems through online orders and point of sale devices in vendor booths.
  10. As they open, information about BC Farmers’ Markets Online will be added to https://bcfarmersmarkettrail.com.

Visit the BCCDC farmers’ market webpage for the most up-to-date information.

In meeting the required modifications for your market, you may want to consider the following suggestions:

  1. Offering special shopping hours for vulnerable populations, such as allowing the first hour for the elderly to shop.
  2. Implementing online ordering, pick-up and delivery systems (see below to learn more about BC Farmers’ Markets Online):
    • Consider staggered times for pick-ups by last name, for example:
      Time        Last name 1st letter
      11-12pm        A-E
      12-1pm          F-J
      1-2pm            K-O
      2-3pm            P-T
      3-4pm            U-Z
  3. Offering pre-packaged products to avoid unnecessary handling
  4. Vendors accommodations, where feasible

At this time, focus on what is required to modify your market (above) and emphasize the following:

  1. Farmers’ markets are first and foremost food retail establishments for people to purchase food while supporting local farmer and producer livelihoods. They are NOT social events.
  2. BC Farmers’ Market operators and vendors currently operate using FOODSAFE/MarketSafe and Guidelines for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets best practices, as prescribed by provincial health authorities.
  3. Shorter shopping trips – “Shop, Don’t Stop”.
  4. Signage, signage, signage! Create signage that promotes health & safety, social distancing and respecting market guidelines. See our “Examples from Farmers’ Markets” section for inspiration.
  5. Sharing the measures your market is taking through newsletters and social media.

BC Farmers’ Markets Online is an initiative that supports and promotes member farmers’ markets of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets in selling vendor products through an online farmers’ market store.

Please note that participation in BC Farmers’ Markets Online is voluntary and does not necessarily replace a physical market. Additionally, for various reasons individual markets may determine not to develop an online market for the moment.

Learn more below.

BC Farmers’ Markets Online

BC Farmers’ Markets Online is an initiative that supports and promotes member farmers’ markets of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets in selling vendor products through an online farmers’ market store. Each market is unique in its operations, and BC Farmers’ Markets Online will reflect this diversity. For example, markets may vary in the online platform they use and how products are delivered or picked up.

Please note: Participation in BC Farmers’ Markets Online is voluntary and does not necessarily replace a physical market. Additionally, for various reasons individual markets may determine not to develop an online market for the moment.

Thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Buy BC program we will be able to cover the fees for market’s to go online in the 2020 season (see March 27, 2020 press release). We are excited to share this project as it progresses, and are working hard to launch very soon.


To support our member markets in providing an online store, we are delighted to share member preferred pricing through the e-commerce program, Local Line.

Visit the BCAFM/Local Line webpage for FAQ and to discover how your market can go online!


If your BCAFM member farmers’ market is interested in the Local Line platform, you just need to complete a quick form.

FILL OUT THE FORM


  1. How do I go about opening an online farmers’ market?
    BCAFM has secured preferred pricing with Local Line, and is delighted to share that we have secured funding to cover ALL monthly fees for the Local Line e-commerce platform for up to 100 BCAFM member farmers’ markets for the 2020 peak season (April/May to Sep/Oct). Vendors selling at those BCAFM member markets who are participating in this initiative will be able to use the Local Line platform as well. In some cases, farmers’ markets may choose to use alternative e-commerce solutions at their discretion and with their own resources independent from this BCAFM initiative with Local Line.

    Visit the Local Line/BCAFM landing page for FAQ and to learn more. If your BCAFM member farmers’ market is interested in the Local Line platform negotiated through this BCAFM initiative, please fill out this form. 
  2. What market modification guidelines must be followed?
    Although some modifications clearly do not apply to online markets, both physical and online markets must adhere to physical distancing measures, restricted activities, enhanced hygiene and additional measures as directed by the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) on the BCCDC Farmers’ Market webpage. For example: markets must discontinue all food sampling activities, including by the glass sales of wine or other alcohols, and markets must cancel activities that promote gatherings, such as demonstrations, live musicians etc.

    • HOWEVER, vendor products that can and cannot be sold at physical (in-person) markets and online markets are not the same (see “What vendor products can and cannot be sold?” below). 
  3. What vendor products can and cannot be sold?
    • Physical (in-person) markets:
      • To comply with direction from the Provincial Health Officer and BCCDC, vendors are allowed to “sell ONLY FOOD which includes fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts, and liquor”.
    • Online markets:
      • Vendors are allowed to sell food (which includes fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts, and liquor), as well as craft and artisan vendor products.
      • IMPORTANT: In order to comply with direction from the PHO and BCCDC, craft and artisan products sold through the online market are not allowed to be delivered or picked up at the physical (in-person) market. Only food products sold online can be picked up at the physical market. Vendors selling craft and artisan products must make it clear on their online store that those products are not allowed for pick-up at the physical market and other delivery or pick-up arrangements by those vendors must be made. 
  4. What vendor products qualify as “food”?
    The following two points should guide in determining what vendor products qualify as “food”:

    • As directed by the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) on the BCCDC Farmers’ Market webpage, food includes fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts, and liquor.
    • As per the Food Safety Act:
      • “food” means food or drink for human consumption, and includes(a) any substance or thing that is manufactured, sold or represented for use as food or drink for human consumption,
        (b) any substance or thing that is manufactured, sold or represented for use as an additive, ingredient or processing aid in a substance or thing referred to in paragraph (a), and
        (c) any agricultural or aquatic product that is grown, raised, cultivated, harvested or kept for the purpose of producing food or drink for human consumption.
  5. How are products distributed from the online store?
    • Each physical market is unique in its operations, and BC Farmers’ Markets Online will reflect this diversity. For example, markets may vary in how products are delivered or picked up based on the needs of their own vendors, customers and communities.
      • IMPORTANT: In order to comply with direction from the PHO and BCCDC, craft and artisan products sold online are not allowed to be delivered or picked up at the physical market. Only food products sold online can be picked up at the physical market. Vendors selling craft and artisan products must make it clear on their online store that those products are not allowed for pick-up at the physical market and other delivery or pick-up arrangements must be made.
    • Farmers’ markets can still hold a vital role to play in the vendor distribution model as a key distribution/pick-up point where possible, in addition to being a virtual marketplace for customers and vendors.
    • Consider staggered times for pick-ups by last name, for example:
      Time        Last name 1st letter
      11-12pm        A-E
      12-1pm          F-J
      1-2pm            K-O
      2-3pm            P-T
      3-4pm            U-Z
  6. Is participation in BC Farmers’ Markets Online mandatory for market members and does it replace a physical market?
    Participation in BC Farmers’ Markets Online is voluntary and does not necessarily replace a physical market. Each market is unique and will determine the best operating model for its vendors and community.

    • BCAFM continues to support and promote modified physical market operations in addition to those who choose to open an online farmers’ market.
    • If a physical market is not possible, it can still act as a distribution point for the online market, where appropriate.
  7. Do member markets have to use the Local Line platform if they open an online store?
    Each physical market is unique in its operations, and BC Farmers’ Markets Online will reflect this diversity, which means markets may vary in the online platform they use.

    • IMPORTANT: With support from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Buy BC program, BCAFM will cover the 2020 peak season (April/May to Sep/Oct) fees for member farmers’ markets who do choose the Local Line e-commerce platform established through this BCAFM initiative.
  8. If a member market chooses an online market platform other than Local Line, will it still be part of BC Farmers’ Markets Online?
    Yes! Member online markets will still be included under the BC Farmers’ Market Online initiative, regardless of chosen online platform. Once an additional feature is added to the BC Farmers’ Market Trail, the BCAFM team will be able to feature the online market on their BC Farmers’ Market Trail market listing. Stay tuned!
  9. Do vendors have to be a BCAFM vendor member?
    Vendors do not have to be a member of the BCAFM Vendor Membership Program to sell at either a physical or online market. Vendors do need to be affiliated with the individual farmers’ market in whichever way vendors are at physical markets (i.e. market vendor membership, vendor/booth fees, etc. and must align with BCAFM bylaws and policy and market bylaws and policy).
  10. Are there vendor fees for the online market?
    Each market is unique in its operations, and BC Farmers’ Markets Online will reflect this diversity. This means that just like physical markets, it is up to each market to determine if there is to be the same, different or no additional vendor fee for vendors to sell on their online market.

Managing Communications

We strongly encourage you to establish relationships with your local health authority and municipality/regional district to let them know the actions your market is taking to ensure health and wellness and collaborate on steps forward (be precise!). Important information to keep in mind and share:

  1. Farmers’ markets have been declared an essential service by the BC government (March 26, 2020). Share this press release.
  2. 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. Share this statement from the BCCDC Farmers’ Market landing page which also has clear information on physical distancing measures, as well as restricted activities, enhanced hygiene, and other measures that comply with recommendations and orders from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO).
  3. BC Farmers’ Market operates are still subject to operating under the BCCDC Guideline for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets.
  4. Farmers markets are essential food access retail outlet for local residents to purchase food while ensuring local farmer livelihoods and reducing food and crop losses.
  5. Farmers’ markets provide retail access to food and are not events. This is especially important as conventional food and grocery supply chains may be disrupted and local farmers’ markets play an important role to fill the gap.
  6. BC Farmers’ Market operators and vendors currently operate using FOODSAFE/MarketSafe and Guidelines for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets best practices, as prescribed by provincial health authorities.
  7. Point them to this page (Modifying Market Operations) when demonstrating the steps you are taking.
  8. Emphasize that you are working with the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets.

We strongly encourage consistent communication with consumers on the role of farmers’ markets and to make the case for markets to remain open wherever possible. Remember, farmers’ markets are first and foremost essential food retail establishments for people to purchase food while supporting local farmer and producer livelihoods. Through social media, email and signage:

  1. Provide customers with relevant, up-to-date information without undue alarm.
  2. Use social media to share information, interact with followers and respond to their questions and concerns.
  3. Emphasize that maintaining the highest level of safety is paramount to your market and describe any changes to market procedures to prevent the spread of infection.
  4. Farmers’ markets may offer advantages over other outlets, such as time outdoors and exercise.
  5. If markets do need to close, ensure that customers and vendors know that the market will be closed as early and through as many channels as possible.

Below are important points to consider using when communicating with consumers:

  1. Farmers’ markets have been declared an essential service by the BC government (March 26, 2020). Share this press release.
  2. 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. Share this statement from the BCCDC Farmers’ Market landing page which also has clear information on physical distancing measures, as well as restricted activities, enhanced hygiene, and other measures that comply with recommendations and orders from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO).
  3. Farmers markets are essential food access retail outlet for local residents to purchase food while ensuring local farmer livelihoods and reducing food and crop losses.
  4. Farmers’ markets provide retail access to food and are not events. This is especially important as conventional food and grocery supply chains may be disrupted and local farmers’ markets play an important role to fill the gap.
    • Effective March 16th, 2020: Gatherings of more than 50 people are to be cancelled, HOWEVER, as essential food retail are not included in the ban of gatherings in BC.
  5. BC Farmers’ Market operators and vendors currently operate using FOODSAFE/MarketSafe and Guidelines for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets best practices, as prescribed by provincial health authorities.
  6. The majority of our farmers’ markets operate outdoors.
  7. Point them to this page (Modifying Market Operations) when demonstrating the steps you are taking.
  8. Emphasize that you are working with the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets.

We also encourage markets not to detract from the conversation online with consumers and the public. These are going to be difficult conversations, but we urge you to embrace these discussions. It is okay to not have the answers, and it is more important to let people know they are heard and that their health and safety is our top priority. There are many online resources to use when engaging with people on social media: Use it.

*Adapted in part from Farmers’ Market Coalition.

When discussing BC Farmers’ Markets Online with consumers, local government, or the media, please share the following important points:

  • BC Farmers’ Markets Online is an initiative that supports and promotes member farmers’ markets of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets in selling vendor products through an online farmers’ market store. Each market is unique in its operations, and BC Farmers’ Markets Online will reflect this diversity. For example, markets may vary in the online platform they use and how products are delivered or picked up.
  • Please note: Participation in BC Farmers’ Markets Online is voluntary and does not necessarily replace a physical market. BCAFM will continue to support both physical and virtual market operations that provide access to fresh, local food while maintaining the highest level of safety. Additionally, for various reasons individual markets may determine not to develop an online market for the moment.
  • Thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Buy BC program BCAFM will be able to cover the fees for market’s to go online in the 2020 season (see March 27, 2020 press release). We are excited to launch very soon.”

Examples from Farmers’ Markets

The following examples are provided from BCAFM farmers’ market as resources to modify operations at your own market in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They can be used to help adapt, develop and communicate the measures your market is taking to customers, vendors, the general public, as well as your local government and health authorities (where applicable).

Modifying Markets – FAQ

All ‘sections’ referred to in these FAQ are under this BCAFM webpage Modifying Market Operations.

  1. How do we operate in a pandemic?
    • Every market is unique and so are their operations. Visit the BCAFM webpage Modifying Market Operations for important up-to-date resources and information on steps to take in modifying your market, handling communications, and more.
  2. How to have market staff and vendors avoid working too closely?
    • Follow the requirements under the “What to Modify” section.
  3. How to address unmet guidelines, such as when people are too close?
    • Follow the requirements under the “What to Modify” section.
    • As per the “What to Emphasize” section, we suggest signage, signage, signage! Create signage that promotes health & safety, physical distancing and respecting market guidelines. See our “Examples from Farmers’ Markets” section for inspiration.
    • In all cases, resort to your individual market guidelines for handling and resolving customer compliance issues.
  4. Will physical/outdoor markets go ahead or is it at the discretion of the market manager?
    • At this time, BCAFM is not advising member farmers’ markets to close unless ordered by authorities or otherwise deemed necessary by the market governing organization. However, all markets must modify their operations to maintain the highest level of safety (see the “Modifying Markets” section).
    • While for various reasons some markets may be ordered by their local authorities to close, there is no current provincial order to close farmers’ markets, and BCAFM continues to take direction from the BC government, BC Centre for Disease Control and Provincial Health Officer in prioritizing health and safety at our member farmers’ markets.
  5. What can markets with a mainly senior citizens customer base do to stay functioning and still serve these customers?
    • As per the “What to Consider Modifying” section, one suggested option is special shopping hours for vulnerable populations, such as allowing the first hour for the elderly to shop.
  6. Are cash transactions allowed?
    • As per the “What to Modify” section, it is advised that where feasible to create cashless payment systems through online orders and point of sale devices in vendor booths.
  7. We are looking for guidance and recommendations on how to modify and possibly add a drive through or box program. Will BCAFM be creating and sharing  recommended templates for this?
    • We are in the process of launching our BC Farmers’ Markets Online initiative that supports and promotes member farmers’ markets of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets in selling vendor products through an online farmers’ market store. Each market is unique in its operations, and BC Farmers’ Markets Online will reflect this diversity. For example, markets may vary in the online platform they use and how products are delivered or picked up.
    • Please note that participation in BC Farmers’ Markets Online is voluntary and does not necessarily replace a physical market. Additionally, for various reasons individual markets may determine not to develop an online market at  the moment.
    • If a BCAFM member market is interested in participating in the BC Farmers’ Market Online initiative, please fill out this form.

  1. Handwashing stations – is it acceptable to not provide any so our staff doesn’t have to touch them?
      • As per the “What to Modify section”, market must provide handwashing facilities and access to hand sanitizers.
  2. How many handwashing stations should we have?
    • As per the “What to Modify section”, provide enough handwashing stations to create an environment in the market where customers can practice safe physical distancing of 2 metres.

  1. What vendor products can and cannot be sold?
    • Physical (in-person) markets:
      • To comply with direction from the Provincial Health Officer and BCCDC, vendors are allowed to “sell ONLY FOOD which includes fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts, and liquor”.
    • Online markets:
      • Vendors are allowed to sell food (which includes fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts, and liquor), as well as craft and artisan vendor products.
      • IMPORTANT: In order to comply with direction from the PHO and BCCDC, craft and artisan products sold through the online market are not allowed to be delivered or picked up at the physical (in-person) market. Only food products sold online can be picked up at the physical market. Vendors selling craft and artisan products must make it clear on their online store that those products are not allowed for pick-up at the physical market and other delivery or pick-up arrangements by those vendors must be made.
  2. What vendor products qualify as “food”?
    The following two points should guide in determining what vendor products qualify as “food”:

    • As directed by the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) on the BCCDC Farmers’ Market webpage, food includes fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts, and liquor.
    • As per the Food Safety Act:
      • “food” means food or drink for human consumption, and includes(a) any substance or thing that is manufactured, sold or represented for use as food or drink for human consumption,
        (b) any substance or thing that is manufactured, sold or represented for use as an additive, ingredient or processing aid in a substance or thing referred to in paragraph (a), and
        (c) any agricultural or aquatic product that is grown, raised, cultivated, harvested or kept for the purpose of producing food or drink for human consumption.
  3. Should physical (in-person) markets eliminate all artisans, musicians, buskers, massage therapy or similar practises?
    • As per the “What to Modify” section, physical (in-person) markets may sell only food (which includes fresh, frozen and prepared foods, food carts, liquor).
    • As per the “What to Modify” section, markets must cancel activities that promote gatherings, such as demonstrations, live musicians, etc.
    • As per press release from the BC government March 21, 2020, ““Until further notice, personal service establishments – like barbershops, salons, nail estheticians, health spas, massage parlours, tattoo shops and others – are ordered to close.”
    • We understand that the social and cultural component of farmers’ markets is important, but in times like these, it is critical that we prioritize essential food and hygiene products only.
  4. We are having trouble with allowing food trucks as it creates a line and customers have to wait longer for pick up. What is your advice on this?
    • As per the What to Modify” section, you must create an environment in the market where customers can practice safe physical distancing of 2 metres.

  1. Will individual markets be notified if the BCAFM contacts their specific mayors and communities?
    • We strongly encourage markets to be proactive and establish relationships with your local health authority and municipality/regional district to let them know the actions your market is taking to ensure health and wellness and collaborate on steps forward (see “Communications with Local Government” section).
    • BCAFM will also continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and update its members across BC on this issue as it continues to evolve, including any BCAFM communications with authorities. 

Scroll above to the ‘BC Farmers’ Markets Online section for the BC Farmers’ Markets Online FAQ.

Non-Medical Support for COVID-19

The province has created a phone service to provide non-medical information about COVID-19, including the latest information on travel recommendations and social distancing. Information is available in more than 110 languages, 7:30 am - 8 pm at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) or via text message at 604-630-0300. . You can also visit their COVID-19 Provincial Support and Information website.

Visit the Provincial Website
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