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Owen Sound Farmers' Market set to reopen, with big changes

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The Owen Sound Farmers’ Market will reopen its doors to customers on Saturday, but it will be a much different experience from the one market visitors have experienced in the past.

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The bustling, crowded market atmosphere where people gather to browse the local wares and chat with familiar faces is being replaced with vendors physically distanced throughout the market grounds, with patrons asked to promptly make their purchases and refrain from gathering and socializing.

But regardless of the changes, market co-manager Richard Thomas said Wednesday that it is great to get things going again.

“What is better than fresh, local food, especially with the winter we have gone through here,” said Thomas. “It is great for the vendors, many of whom depend on farmers’ markets for their income.”

The market was last open on March 7, with the Owen Sound Market Vendor’s Association board deciding on March 13 to cancel its sale for the following day as COVID-19 measures were implemented.

“When the market closes down and the world closes down it doesn’t mean that food production stops,” Thomas said. “We had a lot of vendors with a lot of food and they did their best to finds ways to get it to the consumers.”

In early May, the market opened an online store featuring its vendors, allowing the public the chance to purchase products, which were then available to be picked up at the market building on Saturdays.

“The online store has been going exceptionally well, but everyone wants to get back to having the farmers market open,” said Thomas, adding the online store will continue

The pickup time for online orders is now 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, with those customers asked to come to the southeast door of the market building to receive their purchases.

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When the market reopens on Saturday it will have new hours of operation – from 9 a.m. to noon.

The public is asked to only spend enough time in the market to make their purchases. There are no public seating areas, and people will be asked to not gather and socialize.

With physical distancing orders in place, the market board is asking that only one family member attend, hand sanitizing stations are set up and mandatory, while masks are optional.

Thomas said that they are taking their direction from public health in making face masks optional as there is no law stating people have to wear them. Thomas himself will be wearing a mask.

“We are saying face masks are optional, and if it makes you more comfortable please come and wear one,” said Thomas. “I will certainly be wearing one at the gate and admitting people into the market and many of our vendors will have face masks on. Some have purchased the plexiglass shields for their booths.”

The entrance to the market will be the west driveway to the market square, where 1st Avenue East used to exit prior to the downtown river precinct and market renovation work. Vendors will be under the enclosed canopy and customers will be outside allowing for a one-way traffic flow around the canopy. Arrows have been placed on the floor of the market building itself directing the flow of traffic. Vendors will be spaced out with the number of customers limited as well. Just nine vendors will be located inside the original market building, and only nine customers at a time will be allowed in. Details are available at owensoundfarmersmarket.ca

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“It has been a lot of work and it is going to be a lot of work, but anything worth doing is worth doing right,” Thomas said, adding their whole plan has been developed, sent to public health for approval, then set up and inspected by public health, which has given them the thumbs up to open.

Thomas said they have 33 vendors planning to be at the market on Saturday for reopening, which they can comfortably handle with all the measures in place.

Thomas advised everyone to please remember that it is the first week of reopening, and to bring all their patience if they plan to attend on Saturday.

“We are learning how to do this together,” he said.

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