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Vernon, B.C., councillor urges province to reconsider COVID-19 restriction on farmer’s markets

Click to play video: 'Vernon Farmer’s Market wants to offer non-food sales' Vernon Farmer’s Market wants to offer non-food sales
WATCH: With many B.C. businesses open amid ongoing pandemic restrictions, some in the North Okanagan are questioning a government policy that limits what types of products can be sold in-person at local farmers markets. – Feb 17, 2021

With many B.C. businesses open amid current pandemic restrictions, some in the North Okanagan are questioning a provincial government policy that limits the types of products that can be sold in-person at local farmer’s markets.

Selling non-food items in-person at the markets is not allowed under a provincial health officer order designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The non-food products can be sold online.

The Vernon Farmer’s Market said the policy has been a blow to crafters who normally sell their products at the weekly event.

Read more: Coronavirus: Quebec movie theatres can re-open, but not sell food and drink

“They have now been without a place to sell since the beginning of December,” said Amanda Fallis, the market’s interim manager.

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“They are the backbone of our communities…we really need to be helping them out as much as we can right now.”

The president of the Vernon Farmer’s Market said it needs 20 vendors to sign-up each week for the market to break even.

However, right now, with the restrictions on the types of products that can be sold in the farmer’s market, it only gets around 11 or 12 vendors each week.

It means the farmer’s market is operating at a loss even with the help of a wage subsidy.

“We are holding on because of the wage subsidy … but it is just squeaking us by really as a market. To get by we really need all of our vendors,” Fallis said.

Read more: Coronavirus: 47 new cases for Interior Health, but no deaths

With many other businesses open, Vernon city councillor Scott Anderson is calling on the province to reconsider its ban on non-food products at markets.

“It’s denying people the ability to make a living rather arbitrarily. I can go to a big box store and buy a decorative mug. I can’t go to a farmer’s market and do the same thing,” Anderson said.

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Click to play video: 'Social gatherings continue to facilitate spread of coronavirus in B.C.' Social gatherings continue to facilitate spread of coronavirus in B.C.
Social gatherings continue to facilitate spread of coronavirus in B.C – Feb 17, 2021

The market said it has a detailed COVID-19 safety plan and believes crafters could return to the market safely.

In a statement, the province said food vendors are allowed because they provide an essential product.

The province did not explain why in-person sales of other products are not allowed at farmer’s markets.

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