COVID-19 isn’t the only challenge farmers have faced this season. A spring drought meant early trouble for crops. Still, despite the obstacles, many producers in Peterborough say it has been a good year for business.
“Both markets have been excellent,” says Martin Oates, a longtime market vendor and owner of Martin’s Fruit & Vegetable farm in Campbellford, Ont. “What we notice is we are selling not just one item to someone but two or three items.”
Some are attributing this to the pandemic. People appear to be looking to avoid conventional grocery stores and are more aware of food security.
“We do a program called CSA. It stands for community-supported agriculture,” says Erin Bodashefsky, founder of Foragers Farms in Cobourg, Ont. “People buy-in for a season’s worth of veggies and get a bag each week. That essentially tripled this year.”
Bodashefsky says she has seen an increase in sales and has noticed new faces around the market.
“I think people are recognizing that food security and traceability are important,” she says. “I think maybe COVID has educated people in a new way.”
Overall, officials at the downtown Peterborough Wednesday Farmers’ Market say that foot traffic has dipped, but they have also noticed a renewed interest in shopping locally.
“The season has gone pretty well,” says market manager David Stewart. “People are really excited to support farmers and shop locally and local food systems have become more important now more than ever.”
Stewart says the market has seen a drop in foot traffic, and points to the closure of a number of downtown businesses and offices for the decline.
“The response from the community has been great,” Stewart says. “But we have suffered a little bit by not having an active downtown core.”
Meanwhile, the pandemic hasn’t been this year’s only challenge for farmers. A spring drought put some crops and livelihoods in jeopardy.
“We were having to ship in water, pay for water, hand water and collect water from the river, Bodashefsky says. “This year we wanted to give up, but we prevailed. I work in a partnership with my partner and we got through it together.”
Stewart says getting through it together, with the support of the community, will be crucial in coming years.
“I think we are going to be seeing changes in food supply systems over the years,” he says. “I think people have to adapt to that and they are learning that we have to.”
The Wednesday downtown Peterborough Farmers’ Market runs until Oct. 28, 2020.