Paton calls for return of non-food vendors to B.C. farmers’ markets

VICTORIA (March 3, 2021) – With B.C.’s farmers’ market season fast approaching, BC Liberal Agriculture Critic Ian Paton is urging the government to include non-food vendors at these popular events.

Crafters and artisans who produce non-food items are not currently permitted to sell their wares at farmers’ markets due to current public health orders. While Paton is fully supportive of measures to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, he wonders how a farmers’ market is much different than a department or grocery store.

“These types of stores have been able to operate with guidelines such as physical distancing, mask-wearing and the provision of hand sanitizer – so why not all vendors at outdoor farmers’ markets?” asks Paton. “Unless the Minister has heard otherwise, my understanding is that market organizers have been diligent in implementing the health measures needed to keep shoppers and vendors safe. It seems that we should be allowing non-food producers to sell goods like flowers, clothing, beauty products, jewelry and home décor items as they have done safely and successfully in the past.”

Paton notes the pandemic has brought numerous challenges for businesses of all kinds. Luckily, farmers’ markets are one way that B.C. farmers, ranchers, fishers, producers and processors are still able to share their food products with British Columbians who increasingly want to purchase local goods. Non-food vendors are being excluded from this opportunity, and many of them likely don’t qualify for the government’s Small to Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant Program. Without support, they may be forced to close their operations for good.

“Many markets also rely on non-food vendors to remain viable,” says Laura Smit, Executive Director, Vancouver Farmers Markets. “Stall fees from flower farmers and artisans offset the operating costs of farmers’ markets; without them, the markets themselves could be in jeopardy. These non-food vendors make a valuable contribution not only to these markets, but to our communities and to our economy as well.”

“B.C. farmers’ markets are catalysts for community access to B.C. farmers, growers, and artisans,” says Tracey McKnight, Co-Manager of the Ladner Village Market. “There are ways to continue these connections in a safe manner, which we feel is so important for our communities.”

“If we are going to encourage British Columbians to buy local, you can’t get more local than a farmers’ market,” concludes Paton. “I urge the government to allow the return of non-food vendors to B.C. farmers’ markets for the coming season.”

AttachmentMLA Ian Paton letter to Agriculture Minister Lana Popham




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