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

BCAFM is working with authorities and monitoring the different measures taken by member farmers’ markets to modify their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will update the following information as the situation evolves.

 

Last updated: January 14, 2021

Modifying Your Market

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) in consultation with the Provincial Health Officer recognize that BC farmers’ markets are an essential service and are modifying their practices to comply with recommendations to protect their customers from COVID-19.

These guidelines are provided on the BCCDC website and are subject to change as the situation evolves so it is important to check back regularly for updates.

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. 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 essential food and agriculture service providers. They are NOT social events.
  2. BC Farmers’ Market operators and vendors operate using FOODSAFE/MarketSafe and Guidelines for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets best practices, as prescribed by provincial health authorities.
  3. Signage, signage, signage! It is important to create signage that promotes health & safety, social distancing and respecting market requirements under COVID-19 (i.e. seating areas, physical distancing and hygiene protocols, etc.). See “Informational Posters” below and and our “Examples from Farmers’ Markets” section.
  4. Continually sharing the measures your market is taking through newsletters and social media.
  5. See guidance on communications below in the “Managing Communications” section.

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.

This initiative is made possible through funding support from the BC Ministry of Agriculture Buy BC program and Vancity Credit Union.

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.

Find a BC Farmers’ Markets Online store

#BuyBC at #BCFarmersMarketsOnline


BCAFM and Local Line are working closely together to ensure the best outcomes and experience for our markets and vendors using this platform. Local Line welcomes your feedback.

If markets or their vendors need help they can contact Local Line directly for technical support at anytime:

Email:    support@localline.ca
Phone:  1.226.646.7301

Local Line has also built onboarding into their system, and have a detailed support centre website at support.localline.ca.

Please also visit the BCAFM/Local Line webpage with FAQ and other information specific for our members using the platform.


If your BCAFM member farmers’ market is interested in the Local Line platform, please get in touch with us at info@bcfarmersmarket.org to learn more.


  1. How do I go about opening an online farmers’ market?
    BCAFM has secured preferred pricing with Local Line. 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 get in touch with us at info@bcfarmersmarket.org to learn more.
  2. 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: Thanks to funding support from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Vancity Credit Union, and by the BC Governments’ Buy BC Partnership Program, delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, BCAFM was able to cover all Local Line fees for participating BCAFM member markets and their vendors to go online in 2020 and have extended funding for participating online markets for the 2021 season.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. What vendor products can and cannot be sold?
    • UPDATE December 2, 2020: Only food items for human consumption are permitted to be sold at physical markets. Both food and non-food items may be sold through online farmers’ markets, however, only food items for may be picked up at the farmers’ market. This is in alignment with the December 2, 2020 order from the Provincial Health Officer.
  6. 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.
    • Farmers’ markets can 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
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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 consistent communication with consumers on the role of farmers’ markets and the steps your are taking to modify your market operations. Through social media, email, newsletters and signage:

  1. Continue to communicate with your vendors, customers and community consistently and regularly (whether your market is open, closed or online).
  2. Provide customers with relevant, up-to-date information without undue alarm.
  3. Share information and resource links, interact with social media followers and respond thoughtfully to their questions and concerns.
  4. Emphasize that maintaining the highest level of safety is paramount to your market and share any changes to market procedures to prevent the spread of infection.
  5. Promote that your physical market is open (if applicable), what folks will find there, and the steps you are taking to modify your market operations to prioritize health and safety.
  6. Promote your online market (if applicable), what folks will find there, and how pick-up/delivery works.
  7. Carefully choose photography that tastefully demonstrates the operations of your market under the current circumstances (i.e. avoiding old photos with crowds).
  8. Engage your customers and community through online events, activities and campaigns.
  9. Celebrate the collective efforts of farmers’ markets in maintaining their position as essential and safe access points for local food and products.
  10. Try not to detract from the conversation with consumers and the public on social media or other communication channels. These are going to be difficult conversations, but we urge you to embrace these discussions. It is okay to not have all the answers, and it is more important to lead with compassion, empathy and kindness in this challenging time. Ultimately, people want to know they are heard and that their health and safety is your top priority.
  11. Emphasize your membership with the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and how we are working together.

Below are important points to consider 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 have clear direction on physical distancing measures, restricted activities, enhanced hygiene, and other measures that comply with recommendations and orders from the Provincial Health Officer. Share this information from the BCCDC Farmers’ Market webpage.
  3. BC Farmers’ Market operators and vendors operate using FOODSAFE/MarketSafe and Guidelines for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets, as prescribed by provincial health authorities.
  4. Farmers markets are essential food access retail outlets for local residents to purchase food while ensuring local farmer livelihoods and reducing food and crop losses.
  5. Farmers’ markets are not events nor are they promoting any special events or activities (which are not essential).
  6. Farmers’ markets have also gone online – see “Communicating about BC Farmers’ Markets Online”.

Visit our “Examples from Farmers’ Markets” section for further inspiration and guidance.

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

  1. On April 16, 2020 the BCAFM sent a letter to mayors, councillors and regional district officials of communities in which your markets operate. Read the letter here.
  2. Farmers’ markets have been declared an essential service by the BC government (March 26, 2020). Share this press release.
  3. Farmers’ markets have clear direction on physical distancing measures, restricted activities, enhanced hygiene, and other measures that comply with recommendations and orders from the Provincial Health Officer and BC Centre for Disease Control. Share this information from the BCCDC Farmers’ Market webpage.
  4. Point them to the BCAFM Modifying Market Operations webpage to strengthen the demonstration of what steps you and other BCAFM member farmers’ markets are taking.
  5. BC Farmers’ Market operators and vendors operate using FOODSAFE/MarketSafe and Guidelines for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets, as prescribed by provincial health authorities.
  6. Farmers markets are essential food access retail outlets for local residents to purchase food while ensuring local farmer livelihoods and reducing food and crop losses.
  7. Farmers’ markets are not events nor are they promoting any special events or activities (which are not essential).
  8. Farmers’ markets have gone online – see “Communicating about BC Farmers’ Markets Online”.
  9. Emphasize your membership with the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and how we are working together.

From time to time, you may be asked by media about your market operations or BC Farmers’ Markets Online. Some tips to help guide you:

  1. Who will be writing this? Look up the media source and/or journalist to know their credibility.
  2. Who will be reading this? Look up the media source to know who the audience is.
  3. What do I want to say?
    • Consider what you want to achieve by being interviewed:
      • Tell your story but remain consistent with our current collective position and action as farmers’ markets (see important points below).
    • Important points to keep in mind and share:
      • Farmers’ markets have been declared an essential service by the BC government (March 26, 2020). Share this press release.
      • Farmers’ markets have clear direction on physical distancing measures, restricted activities, enhanced hygiene, and other measures that comply with recommendations and orders from the Provincial Health Officer and BC Centre for Disease Control. Share this information from the BCCDC Farmers’ Market webpage.
      • Point them to the BCAFM Modifying Market Operations webpage to strengthen the demonstration of what steps you and other BCAFM member farmers’ markets are taking.
      • BC Farmers’ Market operators and vendors operate using FOODSAFE/MarketSafe and Guidelines for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets, as prescribed by provincial health authorities.
      • Farmers markets are essential food access retail outlets for local residents to purchase food while ensuring local farmer livelihoods and reducing food and crop losses.
      • Farmers’ markets are not events nor are they promoting any special events or activities (which are not essential).
      • Farmers’ markets have gone online – see “Communicating about BC Farmers’ Markets Online”.
      • Emphasize your membership with the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and how we are working together.
  4. How should I share this?
    • Share with vendors, consumers and local government through email, newsletters and social media.
    • Share with us! Email us at info@bcfarmersmarket.org or tag BCAFM on social media:
      • Facebook: /BCAFM
      • Instagram: @bcfarmersmarket
      • Twitter: @bcfarmersmarket
    • Use the hashtags (where applicable):
      • #BCFarmersMarkets
      • #BCFarmersMarketsOnline
      • #BCFarmersMarketTrail
      • #BuyBC
  5. How should I communicate with the media if my market or another market experiences a confirmed exposure of COVID-19?
    • Please refer to our guide, ‘What happens if a farmers’ market experiences an exposure of COVID-19? Navigating Operations & Communications’.

Visit our “Examples from Farmers’ Markets” section for further inspiration and guidance.

We strongly encourage consistent communication with vendors on whether you are open or closed, and what protocols are in place for operating a physical (in-person) market or online market. Important information to consider:

  1. Provide relevant, up-to-date information without undue alarm.
  2. Share information and respond thoughtfully to their questions and concerns.
  3. Emphasize that maintaining the highest level of safety is paramount to your market and share any changes to market procedures to prevent the spread of infection. Advise and remind them where the direction for protocols has come from.
  4. Encourage them to promote that your physical market is open (if applicable) and the steps you and the vendors must take to modify market operations to prioritize health and safety.
  5. Encourage them to promote your online market (if applicable) and work together to find the most optimal solutions for order, delivery and pick-up.
  6. Photography matters! Advise vendors to choose photos that tastefully demonstrates the operations of their booth and your market under the current circumstances (i.e. avoiding old photos with crowds).
  7. Engage vendors through online events, activities and campaigns.
  8. Celebrate the collective efforts of farmers’ markets in maintaining their position as essential and safe access points for local food.
  9. Try not to detract from the conversation with vendors on social media or other communication channels. These are going to be difficult conversations, but we urge you to embrace these discussions. It is okay to not have all the answers, and it is more important to lead with compassion, empathy and kindness in this challenging time. Ultimately, vendors want to know they are heard and that while health and safety is your top priority, you are in this together.
  10. Emphasize your membership with the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets and how we are working together.

Below are important points to consider 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 have clear direction on physical distancing measures, restricted activities, enhanced hygiene, and other measures that comply with recommendations and orders from the Provincial Health Officer and BC Centre for Disease Control. Share this information from the BCCDC Farmers’ Market webpage.
  3. BC Farmers’ Market operators and vendors operate using FOODSAFE/MarketSafe and Guidelines for the Sale of Foods at Temporary Food Markets, as prescribed by provincial health authorities.
  4. Farmers markets are essential food access retail outlets for local residents to purchase food while ensuring local farmer livelihoods and reducing food and crop losses.
  5. Farmers’ markets are not events nor are they promoting any special events or activities (which are not essential).
  6. The majority of our farmers’ markets operate outdoors.

Visit our “Examples from Farmers’ Markets” section for further inspiration and guidance.

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

  • Mention that your online market is part of BC Farmers’ Markets Online!
  • Thanks to the generous support of the Ministry of Agriculture Buy BC program and Vancity Credit Union, the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets was able to cover the fees for markets to go online in the 2020 season and have extended funding for participating online markets for the 2021 season.*
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Use the hashtags:
    • #BCFarmersMarketsOnline
    • #BCFarmersMarkets
    • #BuyBC

*Thanks to funding support from the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Vancity Credit Union, and by the BC Governments’ Buy BC Partnership Program, delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, BCAFM was able to cover all Local Line fees for participating BCAFM member markets and their vendors to go online in 2020 and have extended funding for participating online markets for the 2021 season.

We see how hard you are all working to successfully adhere to the order by the Provincial Health Officer and measures set out by the BC Centre for Disease Control to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

With that being said, until a vaccine is widely available, community immunity is achieved, or broad successful treatments are developed, there is still risk that your farmers’ market may experience a case of COVID-19.

We have developed this guide, ‘What happens if a farmers’ market experiences an exposure of COVID-19? Navigating Operations & Communications’, to help prepare our member farmers’ markets in navigating the operations and communications should your market or another member farmers’ market experience a confirmed exposure of COVID-19.

Examples from Farmers’ Markets

The following examples are from BCAFM member farmers’ markets and other markets across North America as resources during 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, and media, 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.

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

  1. Should farmers’ markets be planning or promoting special events and activities?
    In short, no, not right now. Traditionally, farmers’ markets are gathering places, and so planning and promoting special events and activities comes naturally to us. But at this time as our sector responds to COVID-19, we have had to pivot from operating as usual to focus instead on our primary collective goal to provide safe access to local food and products. That is why we strongly recommend this important point shared under the “Managing Communications” section:

    • Farmers’ markets are not events nor are they promoting any special events or activities (which are not essential).

Looking forward, BCAFM does not recommend planning or promoting any activities at your markets until restrictions are lifted, particularly those that could generate any gathering. At this time, it is unclear when life in general and at markets will return to normal, and the difficult truth is we must plan as though we are not sure when restrictions will be lifted, because we simply don’t know.

It is more important than ever that we collectively and consistently demonstrate our commitment to modifying operations and solely focusing on farmers’ markets as local food access points.

Alternatively, BCAFM does recommend, where applicable:

    • Promoting that your physical market is open, what folks will find there, and the steps you are taking to modify your market operations to prioritize health and safety.
    • Promoting your online market, what folks will find there, and how pick-up/delivery works.
    • Carefully choosing photography that tastefully demonstrates the operations of your market under the current circumstances (i.e. avoiding old photos with crowds).
    • Engaging your customers and community through online events, activities and campaigns.
    • Celebrating the collective efforts of farmers’ markets in maintaining their position as essential and safe access points for local food and products.

Please visit the “Managing Communications” section of our Modifying Market Operations webpage for more guidance.

  1. Where can we find financial support for market staff during COVID-19?
    • We encourage you to research the resources in the Small Business & Non-Profit Support section of our BCAFM Response to COVID-19 & Resources webpage.
    • We also encourage you to reach out to your local government or financial institutions for support, as they may have programs or funding available. Some markets have already experienced success with this.

  1. How do we operate in a pandemic?
    • Every market is unique and so are their operations. Visit the BCCDC Farmers’ Market webpage and 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. What is adequate spacing between vendor booths?
  3. How many people are allowed at the market?
    • As an essential service, farmers’ markets are exempt from the 50-person mass gathering restriction, HOWEVER, markets must still comply with physical distancing requirements of 2 metres between individuals and groups. Visit the BCCDC farmers’ market webpage for more information.
    • Important for seating: there must be two metres between the customers seated at one table and the customers seated at another table, and no more than six people are permitted per table.
    • Farmers’ markets are still NOT EVENTS. Events are treated much differently and must comply with another order from the Provincial Health Officer which restricts them to no more than 50 people.
  4. How to have market staff and vendors avoid working too closely?
    • Follow the requirements under the “What to Modify” section.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 according to direction from the Provincial Health Officer and BCCDC.
    • While some markets, for various reasons, 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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?
    • Through our BC Farmers’ Markets Online initiative, we support and promote 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.
  10. Is offering seating areas required, and if they are offered, how is physical distancing ensured?
    • The decision of when and how to include seating areas is entirely at the discretion of the farmers’ market organizers. These are important decisions that must be made based on your unique location, resources, and limitations. We encourage you to work with your local government and Environmental Health Officer to determine what will be right for your market.
      • Guidelines for seating are outlined on the BCCDC farmers’ market webpage.
      • Signage is required, and consider markings, flags or posts on grass or the ground.
  11. Are customers allowed to eat at the market?
    • The decision to allow eating and seating areas is entirely at the discretion of the farmers’ market organizers. These are important decisions that must be made based on your unique location, resources, and limitations. We encourage you to work with your local government and Environmental Health Officer to determine what will be right for your market.
  12. Should physical (in-person) markets eliminate all musicians and buskers?
    • Markets may play recorded background music or engage live musicians to play background music but must not allow customers to congregate at that location. The BCCDC does not recommend artists sing near customers (to limit risk of respiratory droplet spread from artists). Markets should not be promoting or advertising music at the market.
  13. Are farmers’ markets required to ask visitors to the market to sign a form for contact tracing?
    Based on the information we have at this time, there is no requirement for BC farmers’ markets to collect contact information of your market visitors, however, individual markets may determine, for various reasons, to implement this measure.

To read and download the following questions and answers, click here.

  1. How can I determine whether I am an employer?
    • If your farmers’ market is operated by a sole proprietorship and hires workers (e.g. family members), it is considered as an employer. If the sole proprietorship does not hire workers, it is not considered as an employer for WorkSafe BC.
    • If your farmers’ market is operated by an incorporated society (e.g. incorporated not-for-profit organization), the latter is considered as an employer.
  2. As an employer in BC, what are my legal requirements?
    • BC’s Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation set out the legal requirements you must follow as an employer operating in British Columbia.
    • As an employer, you must ensure the health and safety not only of your own workers, but also ensure your work does not negatively affect (or introduce hazards) other workers present at a worksite (e.g. vendors, volunteers).
    • Read HERE the overview of legislative and regulatory occupational health and safety requirements.
  3. Do farmers’ markets need a COVID-19 Safety Plan?
    • [Refer to question #1 to determine whether your farmers’ market governing body is considered as an employer.]
    • As mentioned on the WorkSafeBC website: “Every employer is required to have a COVID-19 safety plan that assesses the risk of exposure at their workplace and implements measures to keep their workers safe“.
    • Employers are not required to submit plans to WorkSafeBC for approval, but in accordance with the order of the Provincial Health Officer, this plan must be posted at the worksite. If not possible, you may want to have a market staff or volunteer on site that has a printed copy in hand. During a WorkSafeBC inspection, employers will be asked about the steps they have taken to protect their workers or to see the plan if it has been developed.
    • Where should you start? You can refer to the six steps here suggested by WorkSafeBC including assessing the risk at your farmers’ market and developing the necessary policies to manage your workplace. WorkSafe BC has also developed a COVID-19 Safety Plan app. Additionally, refer to the BCCDC webpage here for hygienic practices and physical distancing measures that need to be integrated into your market, and build protocols to communicate and implement these measures.
  4. (a) In accordance with guidance from the BC Centre for Disease Control:

    • Managers must ensure vendors carry out and pass health checks each day vendors participate at a market.
    • If a manager is unsatisfied with the vendors health check they must not permit the vendor to be present at the market.
    • Vendors must perform health checks and confirm with managers they have passed the health check, otherwise they must not be present at the market.
    • A person must not enter or must leave a market if advised by the owner, manager or staff that the person cannot be safely accommodated, for example, if health check requirements are not met.

    To learn more about how to conduct vendor health checks, please visit the WorkSafe website here.

    (b) What should we do if a market collaborator (vendor, volunteer, board or staff member) is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms?

    • In accordance with guidance from the BC Centre for Disease Control:
      • anyone who is sick or displaying symptoms should not attend the market, or if they become ill at the market, go home.
      • testing is recommended for anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, even mild ones (see BCCDC Testing Information). The person will need to isolate while they wait for test results so they do not potentially spread illness to others. 
      • There is no need to inform anyone of the person getting tested; public health will advise if this is necessary. For questions, people should consult their usual care provider or 811.
      • If the COVID-19 test is negative and they don’t need to isolate for other reasons (for example, known close contact or international travel within 14 days), the market collaborator should follow up with their usual care provider or 811 regarding next steps to confirm they are clear to return to the market, or if there may be a need for repeat testing or need to isolate for other indications.
    • If the COVID-19 test is positive and the market has been notified by public health, please follow the BCAFM guideline: What happens if a farmers’ market experiences an exposure of COVID-19 Navigating Operations & Communications_Aug2020.
    • This is a procedure that should be part of your market’s COVID-19 WorkSafe BC safety plan. If you wish to have recommendations and support for crafting or officializing this part of your safety plan, your local Environmental Health Officer is the best person to contact.
  5. What is an organization’s duty of care to volunteers, staff and customers and how does public policy, legislation, and emergency measures apply to volunteers?
    • During a pandemic, volunteers may expose themselves to health and safety risks. From an occupational and health perspective, there is legal risk (for the organization) and civil liability for volunteers. In most provinces, organizations continue to have a responsibility for the health and safety of their premises, which include people visiting and/or providing volunteer services on their premises.
    • Laws and regulations that impact volunteers vary, particularly during public health emergencies, among provinces and territories. For this reason, it is all the more important to implement policies to ensure volunteer services are offered in a safe and responsible manner, and that appropriate regulatory requirements are observed.
    • Listen to this Volunteers Canada podcast for general information applicable to all provinces and helpful practices to consider for AGMs, volunteer engagement and insurance considerations. You can also read the FAQ sheet about volunteer engagement in public health emergencies from Volunteers Canada.
    • Farmers’ markets should also speak with their general liability insurance provider to better understand what it is covered with regards to volunteers’ health and safety in normal times.
  6. How can you tell if the person helping at your farmers’ market is a worker or volunteer?
    • The answer differs, depending on the circumstances, so WorkSafeBC makes every determination on a case-by-case basis. The FAQ sheet developed for BC Ranchers by AgSafeBC and WorkSafeBC may help you understand some of the factors that are considered in determining whether someone is a worker or a volunteer.
    • Health and safety responsibilities for another employer’s workers and for contractors and subcontractors are complex. WorkSafeBC recommends you contact the Employers’ Adviser Office for advice and assistance:
      • Toll Free within Canada: 1-800-925-2233
      • Lower Mainland: 604-713-0303
      • Email: eao@eao-bc.org
  7. What are my responsibilities owed to contractors?
    • If you’re hiring a contractor, the first thing you will want to do is confirm whether that person is registered with WorkSafeBC. Read more here about what you need to know and do to hire registered or unregistered contractors.
    • Responsibilities owed to contractors are very complex. WorkSafeBC recommends that you contact the Employers’ Advisers Office for further advice and assistance before hiring a contractor:

      • Toll Free within Canada: 1-800-925-2233
      • Lower Mainland: 604-713-0303
      • Email: eao@eao-bc.org

  1. Handwashing stations and supplies:

  1. What vendor products can and cannot be sold?
    • UPDATE January 8, 2021: Only food items for human consumption are permitted to be sold at physical markets. Both food and non-food items may be sold through online farmers’ markets, however, only food items for may be picked up at the farmers’ market. This is in alignment with the Gathering and Events Order (Jan. 8, 2021) from the Provincial Health Officer.
  2. Should physical (in-person) markets eliminate all musicians, buskers, massage therapy or other personal services?
    • As per the “What to Modify” section, markets must cancel activities that promote gatherings, such as demonstrations. Updated on June 29, 2020, markets may play recorded background music or engage live musicians to play background music but must not allow customers to congregate at that location. The BCCDC does not recommend artists sing near customers (to limit risk of respiratory droplet spread from artists) and asks markets to not promote or advertise music at the market.
    • Update Jan. 8, 2021: The Gathering and Events Order (Jan. 8, 2021) from the Provincial Health Officer does not permit personal services.
  3. 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. Some markets have had success with turning food trucks to face “out” from the market where safe to do so, providing more room to line up and wait.
  4. Can a vendor sell homemade hand sanitizer?
    • All approved alcohol-based hand sanitizers must meet the necessary requirements under the Natural Health Produce Regulations (NHPR). A site licence is required to manufacture, package, label and/or import an Natural Health Product hand sanitizer in Canada. A product licence, represented by a Natural Product Number (or NPN), is required to legally distribute (i.e., donate or sell) the product. A product licence is required even if donating these products. Find out more here.

  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. 

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.

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