N.S. farmers’ markets struggling after several weekend storms

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia farmers’ markets call for emergency funding'
Nova Scotia farmers’ markets call for emergency funding
WATCH: It has been a challenging two years for farmers’ markets across Nova Scotia. Not only has the pandemic affected business, but weekend storm after weekend storm this winter pushed many to the brink. There have been calls for supports but as Ashley Field reports, emergency funding from the province is not on the table. – Apr 20, 2022

It has been a challenging two years for farmers’ markets across the province. Not only has the pandemic affected business, but multiple weekend storms at the start of 2022 have pushed many to the brink.

At the Truro Farmers’ Market, which operates one day a week on Saturday mornings, it resulted in nearly $10,000 in lost revenue.

“We had to cancel several Saturday markets completely,” says market manager Margaret Ells.

“We got every storm they forecast, and they seemed to all come on Friday nights and Saturdays.”

Ells says the not-for-profit cooperative is only seeing about half the number of guests it would pre-pandemic, adding it makes most of its revenue from vendor fees. She says it was a big strain to have no money coming in and bills piling up.

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“We were really struggling to meet all our financial obligations. The expenses like our wages, operating expenses, building expenses,” she says.

“I don’t think we ever thought, ‘Oh, we might not make it,’ but oh boy, we were burning through any extra profits.”

Click to play video: 'Global News Morning Halifax: April 20'
Global News Morning Halifax: April 20

Farmers’ Markets Association of Nova Scotia executive director Justin Cantafio says markets across the province faced similar situations.

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“In March it became very apparent that a number of our year-round farmers’ markets were in very financially precarious situation,” he tells Global News.

“Many were running in the red, running off lines of credit — really not in an effective situation, where money should be invested in expanding local food infrastructure. Instead they were just treading water and trying to keep the lights on.”

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Last month, the association approached the provincial government, requesting a financial stimulus of $100,000. Cantafio says that money would be split between markets to cover costs accrued from the storms.

“Any time a sector is hit significantly hard by things like storms or financial burdens, generally government steps up and provides stimulus funding,” says Cantafio.

“That’s all this request is, just a one-time emergency funding to right the ship and get the farmers’ markets back on their feet.”

However, the funding request was denied.

“The department provides funding to farmers’ markets of Nova Scotia on a variety of fronts and damage and/or storm insurance and its costs are a private sector matter and we do not,” said NS Agriculture Minister Greg Morrow when asked about the decision during question period Tuesday.

“Over the last two years, the department of agriculture has provided $165,000 in programs in support for farmers’ markets.”

At the weekend Wolfville Farmers’ Market Cooperative, four weeks of income was lost due to winter storms, which made for a $17,000 deficit. Executive director Kelly Marie Redcliffe says that money is “not recoverable.”

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“And while we can budget to recover this over four or so years, it means that this is money that we will be paying on, thanks to needing to use our line of credit on and money we cannot use to invest in developing the local food system that our communities will rely on well into the future,” she says in an email.

“I realize that Farmers’ Markets did receive some supports during the pandemic, and I am grateful for that, however, these storms, at this time are devastating to our cooperative, already under the strain of a very challenging two years.”

Cantafio says he is extremely grateful for the province’s support thus far, saying farmers’ markets wouldn’t be as successful today without it, but worries that not having this extra money will have devastating impacts on some markets.

“Just to be honest and without fear-mongering, some do run the risk of closing if this is not something they can recover from,” he says.

“We need to get more local infrastructure and more local food into the hands of Nova Scotians, not less. So this is, I think, a wise and relatively small ask that we have, and we just hope we can work with the province on this.”

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