Robin Round, owner of the Valley’s Botanical Bliss Products, said the province’s decision to bar vendors selling non-food products from outdoor markets as a safety precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic is crushing her business, and others as well. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Robin Round, owner of the Valley’s Botanical Bliss Products, said the province’s decision to bar vendors selling non-food products from outdoor markets as a safety precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic is crushing her business, and others as well. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Non-food vendors ‘destroyed’ by banishment from B.C. farmers’ markets

‘They are…discriminating against the smallest of B.C. businesses under the guise of protecting us’

Artists, artisans and other non-food producing vendors are crying foul over the province’s decision on Dec. 2 to bar them from all farmers’ markets in B.C. as a safety measure during the ongoing spike in cases of COVID-19.

Many rely on the markets for much of their annual income, with Christmas being their busiest season.

Robin Round, president and owner of the Cowichan Valley’s Botanical Bliss Products that sells soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant spray, immune system tonics, and personal health-care products, said that while she depends on online and other sales, the Duncan Farmers’ Market alone accounts for 40 per cent of her annual sales in a normal year, and has been far more this year.

“For December 2020, the Duncan Market represents closer to 80 per cent of my income as all other markets and shows are shut, and people stop ordering online in mid-December for fear of not receiving items before Christmas,” she said.

She said members of the BC Farmer’s Market Association have been vigilant in meeting COVID-19 safety requirements at all times, and all businesses who attend the market are compliant.

RELATED STORY: B.C. STRUGGLES WITH LOCAL FOOD PRODUCTION IN COVID-19 PANDEMIC

“How and why they can single out small businesses in B.C. as a target for shutdown at the most critical point in the retail calendar, when all are compliant with their requirements, is beyond my comprehension,” Round said.

Round said her business is suddenly considered non-essential, but it sells many of the same types of products as Shopper’s Drug Mart, Superstore, Thrifty’s, London Drugs, Costco and many other large retail outlets, and most of these stores are currently packed with shoppers, some elbow to elbow.

“What they are doing is discriminating against the smallest of B.C. businesses under the guise of protecting us from COVID-19,” she said.

“They are not protecting us, they are destroying us. My business is incorporated in B.C. and is my full-time vocation that pays all my living expenses, including my mortgage. My business supports local bookkeepers, accountants, lawyers, graphic designers and printers, so these actions have a much broader impact than just a number of vendors at a market.”

RELATED STORY: B.C. RECORDS 619 NEW COVID CASES, 16 DEATHS AS B.C. UNVEILS VACCINE PLANS

Joe Fortin, a wood carver who relies on farmers’ markets for sales in the critical Christmas and summer seasons, said being shut out of the markets at this time of year puts all vendors who are not food producing into an extremely stressful position.

“Sales during the Christmas season keep vendors like me going until April or May when the tourist season begins,” he said. “If not for government handouts during the pandemic, I’d be in foreclosure right now and now Christmas is looking extremely bleak.”

Fortin said he recently walked through a crowded department store and found only half the people wearing masks, and the air was stale with no movement.

“I then went for a walk down my farmers’ market in Duncan and the air was clean and fresh and everybody was being mindful of each other,” he said.

“If they have to put down restrictions, they should think about where they put them. We are not great big hording crowds. We are mindful people in open-air markets.”

RELATED STORY: FARMERS MARKET BACK ON AFTER CONSULTATION WITH HEALTH OFFICIALS

Both Round and Fortin sent letters expressing their concerns to multiple government officials, including Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau, their Cowichan Valley MLA.

Furstenau said the Duncan Farmers’ Market, and other outdoor markets she’s attended, have very effective health procedures in place to help deal with COVID-19 and keep vendors and customers safe.

“I think they are doing a great job and I wrote a letter to [Health Minister] Adrian Dix asking him to work with [Provincial Health Officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry and reconsider this decision,” she said.

“Personally, I prefer shopping outdoors, especially at a time like this, and these markets support local arts and other businesses. I recognize that Adrian Dix and Dr. Henry have to make many complex decisions, but there’s always opportunities to reflect on how to do things better.”

A statement from the Ministry of Health said, at this time, farmers’ markets must only sell food items.

“Non-food items and personal services are restricted, except for on-line sales and pick-up orders,” the statement said.

“The reason that food vendors are allowed is that farmers’ markets are essential food and agriculture service providers. It’s the product (food) that is considered essential, so that is why it is allowed.”

The statement went on to say that any store operating in B.C. has filed a COVID safety plan with WorkSafe BC to make sure they are providing a safe environment to shop in.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Location of proposed homeless shelter.
Public hearing set for property featuring proposed homeless shelter

Public hearing set after presentations from BC Housing, city staff on shelter proposal, homelessness in town

The Cranbrook Food Bank Society is the recipient of a $250,000 BC gaming grant, earmarked for its new facility under construction on Industrial Road 2. The current downtown facility is pictured here.
Cranbrook Food Bank gets $250,000 gaming grant

Food Bank’s new facility, currently under construction, identified as project of pressing need

Mount Baker RV Campground. File photo.
Mount Baker RV Campground closing down

Major infrastructure replacements expected to cost an estimated $1.3 million

The Rotary Park Auto Tourist Camp, circa 1923. Two years later, the camp was moved Pooley Avenue, and is now the Mount Baker RV Park. Courtesy Jim Cameron.
After 96 years, Cranbrook’s downtown RV park is facing its future

The “Cranbrook Auto Camp” — Mount Baker RV Park — has operated at that spot since 1925. That’s about to change

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

Most Read