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

Jovin Walkus and Alayah Mack enjoy the Centennial Pool in summer 2020. (Geneva Walkus photo)
CCRD receives more funding for Centennial Pool project

The total funding for the project is now over $4 million

Provincial funding in the amount of $300,000 has been announced for the Cariboo Regional District’s plans to improve the Anahim Lake Airport runway. (CRD photo)
$300,000 provincial funding to fuel Anahim Lake Airport runway upgrade

The recovery grant is one of 38 announced to support jobs in rural communities

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The school is very proud of these students (pictured, left to right): Halim Demir (holding Grace Valdez’ gold certificate); Lauren McIlwain, Shayleen Mack, Jaymen Schieck, Kyle Doiron, and Finn Carlson (photo submitted)
SAMS students excel in international competition

The SAMS team swept their category this year; all six participants received awards

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

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

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read