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County farmers' markets adjusting to post-covid world

Some are moving to an online model while the Aberfoyle Farmers' Market has decided curbside pick-up doesn't suit their atmosphere
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A big crowd turned out at the Elora Farmers' Market, one of the stops on the Taste Real Fall Rural Romp. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Some county farmers’ markets are pivoting to an online model in response to the challenges social distancing brings to shopping. 

A press release from The Elora Farmers’ Market says they now have an online shopping tool where shoppers can buy from the usual vendors you’d find at the market. 

Barb Lee, Elora Farmers’ Market manager, said by phone that Greenbelt Foundation partnered with Local Line, an online platform used by food suppliers, to supply markets with a lower-rate to suit their service. 

Orders must be in by Thursday at noon and will be available for curbside pick-up at their usual Bissell Park location Saturday. Each vendor is paid at checkout and pick-up times are staggered by last name. 

Lee said that their first week has been successful with 53 customers picking up orders. 

Jen MacLeod, Rockwood Farmers’ Market organizer, said they are also using the Local Line platform. Those interested can sign-up ahead of time and orders can be placed starting June 3. 

“We may be able to transition to a more normal market through the season, but for now under public health restrictions, there are no cash/onsite sales,” MacLeod said by email. “Everything will be pre-ordered and paid for, with only contactless pick up happening on site.”

MacLeod said they expect the online site will be popular and intend to keep it going even if the market can resume in-person operations. 

Lee also expects the Elora Farmers’ Market to keep its online platform open in the future. 

For the Aberfoyle Farmers’ Market, a curbside pick-up model doesn’t work for them. Jayme Mast, president of the Aberfoyle Farmers’ Market board, explained it doesn’t suit the social atmosphere they deliver at the market. 

“Our market is really community focused, we find people come to get their morning coffee, meet their friends and hangout for an hour,” Mast said. “It’s not just about picking-up groceries for the week. With a curbside pick-up model, none of that will be possible.”

It was a hard decision to make but Mast said they are focusing on encouraging customers to deal directly with their vendors. 

“We decided we want to redirect our efforts and support our vendors in their own online ventures and farm stands,” Mast said. 

Other farmers’ markets are holding out hope for in-person operations in the near future. Dale Small, economic development officer with the Township of Wellington North, said they are hopeful they can open by their planned opening date of June 20.

“We are hopeful that public health guidelines will evolve and that by June 20, public health will allow us to open as per normal,” Small said by email. “As of today, they would not let our type of multi-vendor, multi-stand, non-ecommerce market open.”

Small said they intend to move to an online platform as best they can but with many of their vendors being Mennonites, it makes it difficult to go fully cashless.

Minto and Erin’s farmers’ markets have indicated on their Facebook pages that information about their operations will be announced soon.