Why the Market hasn’t Moved back to the Park

July 19th, 2020

Online Farmers Market Bags
Online Farmers Market Pickup Spot

We know everyone misses seeing the familiar faces of farmers, vendors and neighbours every Thursday. Some of you have been asking when we will be open in the park, and we want to share what went into the decision to continue operating online out of our “depot” at 270 Gladstone Avenue, where the good people of St. Anne’s Church have been so welcoming.

In June, Toronto Public Health issued a 6 page directive to farmers’ market organizers outlining the conditions which would have to be met in order to resume operations in-person. In brief, here are some of the requirements:

  • Markets must be fenced or taped off so there is a single entry and exit point.
  • Within the enclosure, there can be no more than one person per four square metres at any time
  • No seating, communal tables or eating is allowed within the market area.
  • On-site washrooms are to be reserved for staff and vendors only.
  • Pedestrian traffic within the market area is to proceed in one direction only.
  • Visual markers must be placed to ensure people remain 2 metres apart while waiting in line, and reminder signs must be prominently posted.
  • Market staff must monitor compliance with physical distancing and ensure that the number of people in the market is within required limits.
  • Vendors must install physical barriers at their stalls and maintain a 2 metre distance from customers. No sampling or return of products is allowed.
  • Pre-ordering online is encouraged, and customers are to be reminded not to congregate near vendor booths once their purchase is complete.

These measures may be essential, but they would leave us with an almost unrecognizable event, and many specific challenges:

Our site is right at a busy corner, and fencing it off with space for lineups would awkwardly block access to the park for non-market-goers. Also, a controlled entry site would be both costly and extremely challenging to ‘police’. 

The park has cancelled all food programs, so the bread and snacks which are so popular would be missing. In addition, the prohibition on food consumed in the area would make it nearly impossible for our prepared food vendors to make any money. 

The speed at which farmers and vendors could sell their products when the number of people in the market area is so limited, when lineups have to include physical distance, and transactions have to proceed so carefully would hugely reduce their earnings for the time invested. 

This is the real ‘kicker’ for us. Much as we love the social aspect of the market, we are very concerned with farmers and small-scale food producers making a living. With shop.dufferingrovemarket.ca, we are giving them a significantly more predictable and lucrative sales opportunity combined with huge time savings because we do the distribution, and if ever these folks deserved a decent break, it’s this year. 

Many people are not comfortable shopping in person right now, and have expressed their gratitude for our delivery option. We have increased pickup and delivery capacity weekly, to the point where it is no longer hard to get a spot. 

The City still plans to proceed with the Northwest Corner Renewal Project, and as part of that, construction which will lock us out of the rinkhouse is scheduled for the fall.

In addition, there is the possibility of another wave of Covid and another shutdown as a result.

All things considered, we feel that continuing with a system which has resulted in strong sales for many vendors and convenience for customers is the best bet for now. There is a lot of community spirit alive and well at St. Anne’s, and it feels like the right place to be.

We hope this helps you to understand the choice to remain online and that you will show your support for the market farmers and vendors by ordering their wonderful food from shop.dufferingrovemarket.ca!