Penticton Farmers' Market

Under normal circumstances, this is what the Penticton Farmers Market looks like on a busy Saturday morning.

Market season is finally upon us.

Starting this Saturday, the Penticton Farmers’ Market will be back at its usual home on the 100 block of Main Street for its 30th year. The normalcy will end there, but that’s just fine with the vendors and staff.

“I think we’re all just excited to be out there and be back there in some capacity,” said market manager Katherine Harris.

Rather than come and go freely, customers will have to line up near the intersection of Main Street and Lakeshore Drive and wait to be permitted entry.

Only 50 people will be allowed in at any one time, and they’ll leave through exits at either the Gyro Park link road or Westminster Avenue.

“We have a fairly large crew of volunteers who will be counting people coming in and counting people coming out, and communicating with each other,” explained Harris.

Once inside the market, which will be cordoned off, customers will move in one direction past the vendors, who will be wearing masks and spaced at least three metres apart. Hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations will also be available.

The number of vendors has been reduced from a maximum of about 80 to 45, and only produce and prepared food will be available for sale, but customers won’t be able to eat until they leave the market. No drinks will be permitted either.

Harris said the reopening plan has been months in the making and received approval from the City of Penticton, its emergency operations centre and Interior Health.

“It was quite the undertaking,” said Harris.

“It’s not like we can look back and see how a farmers’ market was run during the Spanish flu.”

Bregje Kozak, deputy director of the EOC, said her staff made sure the reopening plan complied with provincial health guidelines and those set out by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets.

“If those weren’t being followed, we wouldn’t allow them to operate,” said Kozak.

City bylaw officers, who typically patrol the market for public safety, will have the additional duty of ensuring the rules are being followed.

The EOC got involved in the file earlier this month at the request of city council.

Coun. Judy Sentes, who put forward the idea and is one of the market’s most ardent supporters, said Wednesday she was “thrilled” to learn the reopening plan had been approved.

Sentes, who also serves as council’s liaison to the farmers’ market, said the smaller, more socially distant version might even be a better fit for some people who want to spend more time with vendors or had trouble with an online ordering service.

Online sales are all that have been available since the market officially reopened in April with customer pickups Saturdays at the Penticton Community Centre.

Harris encouraged people to continue using the service to speed up the process when they visit the market on Saturdays. The online service is available at www.localline.ca/penticton-farmers-market.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry granted farmers’ markets permission to operate under strict regulations because they offer access to fresh food. That same permission doesn’t extend to community markets, like the one operated in past years by the Downtown Penticton Association, which focus more heavily on crafts, non-food products and services.

This story has been updated to include comments from those mentioned