Hundreds of people visited the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market Co-op on Saturday for the first time since it suspended its operations on March 14.
Operating as an open-air market, vendors were set up outside with a strict 100-person limit in the outdoor space, which comprises the market’s usual outdoor spots, along with its parking lot.
Despite the limit, the opening was welcome by both customers and vendors, said Steve Knechtel, owner of Island Baking and Milling and president of the market co-op.
“This is my main venue, which is the case for most of our vendors," he said, noting
"Ninety per cent of my business comes through the market.”
With a steady stream of people visiting the market and 38 vendors selling products, the day was a success, said manager Bernie Plourde.
“We’re just happy making sure our vendors can bring their wares to market.”
Plourde and other farmers’ market members spent three weeks coming up with a plan to open, going through a couple iterations before settling on the format, he said.
“We’re dealing with 1.9 acres, so there’s only so much we can do.”
Visitors had to park across the road at UPEI and were directed by staff when to enter. Spray painted lines on the sidewalk, an increasingly common sight, enforced social distancing for those who had to wait, though the lineups weren’t persistent. Once at the market, customers had to follow arrows in a circuit around the location and were told not to socialize after buying what they wanted.
Plourde didn’t see any issues with customers respecting the rules and spoke about looking into increasing the number of people allowed to participate at one time, something that would have to be approved by the public health office.
The increase is something Knechtel would like to see as well, but for now he’s happy to be back selling.
“It’s different, but it’s great. And it’s not raining, so that’s a plus.”
All in all, the day went off wonderfully, with plenty of regulars showing up, said Plourde.
“It’s nice to see all the familiar faces … I know going online seems to be the new thing, but it’s good to see the farmers face-to-face.”
One of those farmers, Byron Petrie of Seaspray Co-Operative, was thankful for the in-person interactions.
“It’s great to be back because, as a farmer, I’m at home most of the time, so this is my one day of socialization.”
Knowing how much of his job at the market is to interact and talk with customers, Petrie was a little worried about the restrictions before arriving, he said.
“I was preparing for a disaster, but it’s been (good) … I think we only had one issue with people getting too close to each other.”