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Fewer customers but high spirits at Guelph Farmers' Market first day back (10 photos)

With face shields, masks and social distancing, shopping on Saturday was different

The first day of the Guelph Farmers' Market was unlike any other before.

Saturday morning’s market saw social distancing measures, masks, face shields, sanitization and vendors distanced between vans. 

While the market saw fewer customers than usual, spirits were high as people chatted with each other and spent time outdoors during operation hours that run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday during the pandemic. 

“We’ve been able to keep up. People are shopping and moving,” said Danna Evans, general manager of the Guelph Farmers' Market.

She said the market saw 860 customers in total compared to approximately 2,000 customers it sees per day at this time of the year. 

Evans said prior to the opening of the market at 8 a.m., approximately 50 customers lined up to get in. After that, foot traffic slowed down omitting the need for lineups.

Customers were provided with a disinfectant prior to walking into the market. Foot traffic was directed through fencing and social distancing stickers between vendors and customers encouraged attendees to stand apart. 

Many vendors even started offering pickup and delivery options to keep up with the pandemic. 

Evans said normally, the market functions more as a community centre where people mingle and chat as opposed to a place where people just go to buy food. 

“Now because of COVID-19, we need to keep lines moving. We need to keep distance more than ever before obviously, so we’re trying to encourage less chatting,” said Evans. 

“It’s hard. A lot of customers know these vendors for years and years and years.”

Evans said many customers and vendors expressed their joy and excitement for returning to the market this year.

“You know it’s been months and months,” said Evans. 

While some vendors’ business boomed at the market, others did not.

John Ugrnov, owner of Royal Rose Garden who has been selling flowers for 40 years at the market said his business was hit hard by COVID-19 and not many customers bought flowers at his stall today.

“We all have to accept it and do our part for a better tomorrow. Not just for us, but for our children as well,” said Ugrnov, adding that customers and vendors at the market are like a large family. 

Jacqueline Johnson, who co-owns Mapleridge Farm with her husband Howard Johnson and has also been selling local produce at the market for over 40 years said today was probably their best day ever. 

Johnson said people are just hungry to get out said it has been nice to reconnect and see their customers again. 

“People have been really really excited about being back and getting out of the house,” said Johnson.

With a safety shield on and safety measures in place that prohibit customers from touching produce, Johnson said it's definitely been a different experience. 

“No one is used to pointing to our lettuce,” said Johnson. 

She said the pandemic has changed their business models and they’ll soon be opening their farm for customers to come shop. 

“We’ve never done that. That is a totally new thing,” said Johnson. 

The market even helped some new business owners gain traction during the pandemic.

“We’ve actually had probably the best season we’ve ever had,” said Jeremy Erb who started his business Mary Hill Organic with his wife six years ago. 

He said when his business registered for the market, it helped market his business as he saw an increase in new customers reaching out to buy produce.  

“We’ve got a lot of new customers that way,” said Erb.


Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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