Approximately 70 farmers markets in BC plan to take online orders this summer thanks to a provincial grant of $55,000.
“The online thing is not replacing physical farmers markets,” says Heather O’Hara, exective director of the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets, which represents 145 markets across the province.
Online sales won’t replace what the province’s farmers markets do each summer, but aims to make them more efficient as they focus on providing food in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health guidelines mandating social distancing have been slowing sales at the province’s markets even as demand for local produce surges.
Moss Street Market in Victoria has already launched its store offering both delivery and pickup options. The platform BCAFM offers will be run by Local Line, which is based in Ontario.
“It gave our markets the most flexibility,” explains O’Hara.
Many vendors have yet to hear about the option, like Nan Kim and husband Suho Lee of Black Table Farm in Aldergrove. The couple sells at the Fort Langley Village Farmers’ Market. While the market manager has asked Black Table Farm to grow more because he believes demand will be higher, Kim doesn’t know if her market will have an online store.
While she’s interested in online sales, Kim wonders how delivery will work.
“As people are isolated, would we deliver to their home?” she wonders. “How do we protect ourselves? I have a newborn.”
O’Hara says most markets plan to allow consumers to order and/or buy from individual vendors through a page set up by the individual market on the platform provided by Local Line. Some will also allow shoppers to buy from a number of vendors, with their purchases aggregated for pick-up or delivery.
Consumers will have the option to pre-pay or pay on delivery.
“Every market is going to be managing and handling things differently,” she says. “There’s not a one size fits all.”
The provincial funding provided through the Buy BC program will cover fees for individual markets to join the online platform and set up their online store.