The St. Norbert Farmers’ Market has undergone several noteworthy changes over the past few months.
Masks are mandatory in and around the market and bottles of hand sanitizer available at each stall, to name a few.
Amid the modifications, people are still hesitating when it comes to visiting the market, at least relative to previous years.
“We obviously don’t have the numbers we would normally have in a normal year. Our visitor numbers are at least less than half,” says the market’s executive director, Marylin Firth.
Fewer vendors are allowed to sell at the market this year, with efforts being made to limit gatherings and congestion.
“We have no live music, no reason to hang around and make it a social occasion, the way in past years it has been,” says Phil Veldhuis, the market’s treasurer.
Veldhuis also runs a honey farm and has been selling his product, Phil’s Honey, at the market for 30 years.
“We have people that have come week after week to buy their regular groceries from the farmers here. It’s really been fantastic,” he said.
In spite of a quieter atmosphere, organizers are noticing a new trend. Though foot traffic has dropped, those who are coming to the market are passionate in their desire to support local produce.
Executive director Firth says the support comes as a relief to vendors who are experiencing tough times.
“The people who are coming, they’re doing their shopping here, they’re buying local, they’re getting their gifts here and so that support has been tremendous,” she said.
One of the market’s well-known vendors, Hermann Grauer, tells Global News he’s also noticed the shift in attitude.
“People are after local product and connecting with that farmer. That zeal has intensified,” says Grauer, the owner of Nature’s Farm in Steinbach, who’s been selling eggs and pasta at the market for over 15 years.
The Nature’s Farm tent has been open throughout most of the pandemic, allowing Grauer to spot customers’ evolving shopping trends.
“COVID has changed the pattern of how we shop for things. We want to shop in bigger quantities and show up in certain places less often.”
When the market moves inside for the winter, Firth says the number of vendors will need to be greatly reduced to comply with public health restrictions.
“What we’ve done to remediate that is, we’re going to run two days per week,” Firth said. “We’re going to run Saturdays and Sundays right up until Christmas and that way we can have two days so that we can allow more local producers to sell at the market and more customers to come through the market.”
The market will kick-off its first full weekend of being open next weekend, with vendors available to the public from 10 a.m. to noon.