The lifting of restrictions on non-food vendors at farmers markets is music to the ears of the Coombs Farmers Institute, which will be able to hold its annual Seedy Sunday event on March 28.
The province restricted the sale of non-food items at farmers markets in December as part of a wide range of measures aimed at curbing the pandemic’s second wave.
But on March 18, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry revised her order governing gatherings and events to allow so-called “episodic markets,” including farmers markets, to sell non-food items. The revised order allows all items to be sold at outdoor markets, while indoor markets are limited to “food for human consumption, flowers, plants, seeds or compost.”
The new list of allowed items is consistent with items deemed essential for agriculture but some of the items – in particular, seeds – threatened to nix the Seedy Sunday fundraising event for the Coombs Farmers Institute.
“The province says that businesses that sell ‘seeds, fertilizers and pesticides’ are ‘essential,’ so we thought we were good to go,” institute president Janet Thony said earlier this year.
But a health officer with the Vancouver Island Health Authority disputed that. While bedding plants were permitted as well as the compost being sold to raise funds for the local 4-H, the officer told organizers that seeds are not food and therefore prohibited.
Country Life in BC reached out to the authority for an explanation of the ruling but never received one.
The issue is now moot, something that pleases Thony and her members.
Organizers of seasonal farmers markets are also happy the latest episode in ongoing pandemic is over. Cut flower vendors such as the Front Yard Flower Co. of Vancouver are looking forward to returning to markets in Vancouver this spring thanks to the recent change. It had gathered more than 9,200 signatures urging Henry, health minister Adrian Dix and agriculture minister Lana Popham to change the rules for the sake of small businesses that focus on farmers markets.
“There is no logical reasoning to disallow flower farmers and artisan vendors from farmers markets,” the petition said. “For some small businesses, the farmers market is their only means of sales.”