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The lineup to get into the Charlottetown Farmers' Market on Saturday was sometimes long, but nobody seemed to mind.
The market doors are open again and indoor shopping is back.
“Being back inside is the best,” said Claudia Perez of El Sabor de Mexico, one of the vendors at the market. “We are so happy.”
Lineups were created as only a limited number of shoppers were allowed in at one time, part of COVID-19 protocols put in place at the market.
“The difference in being inside now is that we have to do one-way traffic,” said Bernie Plourde, manager of the Charlottetown Farmers' Market Co-operative. “People usually would come in three or four different entrances and then they would leave out different doors.”
Now, shoppers go in one door and exit through another door.
Other doors are closed to allow market staff to count the number of people inside, which is limited to 100 shoppers.
Arrows and signs direct the traffic throughout the market and face masks must be worn inside at all times. Social distancing, enhanced sanitation practices and no seated eating area are also part of the safety protocols in place at the market.
“As for the socializing aspect, some folks said it was unfortunate they can’t because that’s what people like about the market. But, on the other hand, people were pleased that they didn’t have to fight the crowds to get to the produce. And they thought it was, for the most, a pleasurable experience."
Shopper Mary Robinson of Albany agreed.
“It’s a little less frenzied,” she said.
The market, which returned to indoor shopping on Oct. 31, can accommodate 60 vendors and Plourde said the market was near to that number going into Saturday.
Some renovations were made to the market when it was closed during the summer. Ventilation and air systems were installed, electrical improvements were made, and new washrooms were constructed.
“Hopefully that will make the whole experience at the market better for folks, winter and summer,” said Plourde.
When the market closed on March 14 due to the pandemic, an online market was introduced a week later.
“Out of the COVID challenges came some creativity and innovation, and it has been running ever since,” said Plourde.
“It allows for the vendors who are members of the co-op to still access a market and it’s busy. Most patrons that are buying online are folks who don’t like the busyness of the farmers' market but want to support local. So, this is a great way for them to support local.”
He said revenue generated from the online presence has allowed the market to hire a full-time employee to run it.
“As a not-for-profit, the bit of revenue the market is making from the online we are using it to pay a staff member to create employment. The farmers are still getting revenue. We take out the middleman because we are a co-op, so they’re still getting their fair share of the revenue for having to grow the produce. So, in that sense, it’s working well.”
Plourde said the outdoor market in the summer went “better than expected” with between 1,500 and 1,700 people attending each Saturday.
“We’re hoping some vendors made some money. Not as much as they would have in previous years because the tourism was low to near non-existent this year, which was unfortunate because of the great weather we had. It would have been a record season, I think.”
At the end of the day, Plourde said the market is able to pay its expenses while supporting small family business.
“We are blessed to be part of the farmers' market," said Perez.