Vernon city councillor urging province to allow non-food vendors back into farmers markets

'Let market vendors back'

A Vernon city councillor thinks the province should allow non-food vendors back at farmers markets.

Scott Anderson will make a motion in council, Monday, asking the province to reconsider its ban on non-food vendors at farmer's markets across B.C.

On Jan. 8, a gathering and events order from the provincial health office restricted indoor farmer's markets to food vendors only.

“The BC Association of Farmer's Markets has been given no formal reason for the ban other than that farmer's markets are arbitrary classified as 'events' instead of markets, and the public health order disallows non-food items at events. This is not a reason, but rather a claim that the reason it's disallowed is that it's disallowed,” said Anderson.

He added there have been no known outbreaks of COVID-19 originating at farmer's markets.

Amanda Fallis, manager of the Vernon Farmer's Market, said eliminating the non-food vendors has caused significant financial strain.

Fallis said up to 40 per cent of the booths were non-food vendors, and losing those “definitely hurt us. Financially, we are just scraping by.”

Fallis said the decrease in traffic because of fewer vendors has a ripple effect, with fewer people attending the market, so sales are down for the food vendors.

“I think it is a great idea, what he is doing,” Fallis said of Anderson's initiative, adding she knows of numerous other markets that have appealed to the province to ease the restrictions.

Earlier this month, there was concern the winter market would have to be cancelled, but Fallis said the media attention has brought more people to the market, so it will stay open until March 19.

“We don't want to let down our vendors and our customers,” she said.

Anderson said farmer's markets have gone "above and beyond" in precautions, including, but not limited to: one-way walkways, mandatory masks, extra sanitization, and following occupancy calculations.

“Non-food items are sold in big box stores and indoor malls across the province, where there are often few processes to ensure compliance with the PHO, yet they are banned in farmer's markets where each vendor is directly interacting with the public,” said Anderson. “How does this make logical sense?

“This is another example of the discriminatory policies that are killing small businesses, promoting large businesses, and generally distorting the economy in favour of the large chains, while achieving very little to stop the spread of COVID 19."

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