Buying local and eating local has never been more important as consumers look to support their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The good news for folks here in Delta is that you can do just that – support local – as many of your favourite farm markets have opened or will be opening soon – all following new enhanced social distancing and health protocols.
Backroads Family Farm Market (2757 57th St.) re-opened today (May 28) to the delight of operators Alicia and Danielle Guichon.
“With farming and grocery deemed an essential service that certainly works in our favour,” said Danielle.
Alicia said one of many challenges the past two months has been sourcing PPE, Plexiglass, and hand sanitizer to allow them to open safely.
There will be one way in and out with only six people allowed in the store at a time. There will be hand sanitizer available as well, staff will be wearing gloves and masks (if they want too) and Plexiglass will be installed to protect staff from the public, said Danielle.
“We always wear gloves when handling produce, so that is not a real change for us,” said Alicia. “The one way in and out, we feel really helps us with that flow through the store.”
Backroads also has plans to launch more on-line pick-up options in the coming weeks as well.
“People are so excited that we are opening, so that gives us the confidence to know that people want us to be open and that we are providing a service to the community,” added Alicia.
Katie Leek from Emma Lea Farms said they have been open on weekends only for the past few weeks, but will be expanding their operating hours to seven days a week once the June berry season starts.
“At first back in March we only allowed one customer in the stand at a time and once that person left we would sanitize all the surfaces that the person touched,” she said. “We had a social distancing line-up outside, asked to pay by debit only so we are not handling cash. It has been easier because we are not as busy during the off-season. It’s been more of looking towards what we will be doing as we move into the summer.”
She said Plexiglass is going up to protect cashiers, tents for separation and u-picking will also be done in a different way.
Per provincial health guidelines, patrons will not be allowed to bring their own buckets.
“We will be providing brand new sanitized buckets for every customer,” Leek said. “We will be offering a few different sizes (prices to be determined) and pay a flat rate for the bucket, go into the field, fill up and then leave. This will limit the contact between customers and our staff.”
Leek said it will be a different experience this summer, but they are thankful they can remain open and thankful for the community support.
“We are a destination space to hang out, stay, listen to music – this is a place of calming, but this year we have to eliminate that aspect of the farm,” she said. “The positive side is we have had a great growing year – the berries are coming along beautifully. It will still be great. There will be strict rules and regulations in place and as we move along we will adapt.”
The Cropthorne Farm stand on Westham Island, opens for the season on June 5.
Lydia Ryall said they will be limiting the amount of people inside the farm stand, practicing social distancing, hand sanitizing, as well as well as asking those who are ill to shop another time or send a friend.
“Being farms, we all have policies in place for health and safety, but now we are just enhancing that even further,” said Ryall. “Starting in July we will be setting up an on-line ordering system so people can come and grab and go. It will be different. The stand is a popular place to gather and hang out, but we won’t be able to do that.”
Ryall said in March and April, the demand for fresh produce increased.
“There is so much demand out there. It’s great to have a product that people want and want to support local and knowing where their food comes from and we want to be a part of that,” she said. “We will be changing things. This won’t happen overnight, so people have to be patient as we move along and figure out how we do this.”
She said the support from all their fellow Delta farmers is also as strong as ever, which is gratifying to see.
“As a farm community we are all supporting each other because this is all new for each one of us,” she said. “We are all in this together, and it’s always been like that in Delta in that all the farm stands are supportive of each other, but I kind of feel that right now the demand for local is so high, that not one of us can take that demand on, so we all have to share. Hopefully that demand for local continues long after this is all over.”