Houston had its last Farmers’ market of the season on Sept. 25, making it a successful market despite the several challenges due to Covid.
Houston Link to Learning held the first farmers’ market of the season on June 5 after several weeks of doubt in early spring on whether the farmers’ markets would be allowed to open this year. However, the provincial government gave a nod to the market to open for the season in their phased, restart plan and even allowed vendors not restricted to food items.
“It was pretty good. We had the usual number of vendors; it was just challenging because we had a lot of extra protocols that we had to follow and that meant that we usually make enough in registration but this year we did not,” Houston Link to Learning’s manager, Marian Ells.
Ells emphasized that they didn’t want to raise the fees but also had to have a lot more staff available to implement the several social distancing and hygiene measures that they had in place.
“The vendor numbers were good and the customer numbers went up this year. It went well, except of course it rained every single Friday. It was like a conspiracy,” said Ells.
Ells also said that the year was especially good for the vendors at the market because of the Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon Program by the province. Under the program, lower-income families, pregnant women and seniors are provided with coupons to the farmer’s market. Each coupon is worth $21 with qualified recipients receiving a booklet for each week that the the farmers’ market is put up.
The coupons cover vegetables, dairy products and, when available, meat and the vendors are able to turn in the coupons for reimbursement.
“So that generates more income and more for the vendors because those are the coupons that they had to spend at the Farmers’ Market; that’s the only place they would work so it was just great and it is such a great program,” she said.
This year, coupons worth $15, 130 were distributed, which was much higher than last year’s $12,000.
On a busy day, the market saw 12 vendors, and on a quieter one, there would be eight vendors.
“It was a bit different every week; it was dependent on so many things including weather but overall, it was a successful market except for the expenses due to the extra Covid measures,” said Ells.