Economy

Farmers’ markets are still happening this summer – with a few changes


Farmers’ market season is a go in the NWT. Phase one of the NWT’s pandemic recovery plan includes the ability for outdoor markets to open.

In general, gatherings of 25 people or fewer are allowed in phase one. Now, organizers are discussing how markets can work with social distancing measures in place.

In Inuvik, the Arctic Market is scheduled to open for the first time this year on June 20. It’s taking place behind the Midnight Sun Recreation Complex as construction in Chief Jim Koe Park has bumped it from its usual spot.

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The Town of Inuvik announced its intention to move forward with the market last Wednesday.

“We’re getting out the information a month ahead, [which] gives us an opportunity to let people know we’re working on it, and it’s coming,” Mayor Natasha Kulikowski told Cabin Radio.

“It’s something to look forward to, while we still work out the details of what the day will look like.”

The Town is only accepting about half the normal number of vendors to accommodate social distancing, although this might change if the territory moves to phase two of easing restrictions by the time the market rolls around. (Phase two is currently expected in mid-to-late June, the NWT government says.)

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Applications for vendor spots open on June 1 and will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Other details, such as the number of customers allowed at a time, sanitizing protocols, and establishing the flow of foot traffic, are currently under consideration.

According to Kulikowski, Town of Inuvik staff are meeting with territorial environmental health officers to ensure proper precautions are taken.

A Polar Egg carton at a farmers' market in Inuvik

A Polar Egg carton at a farmers’ market in Inuvik. Photo: Arctic Market

Despite these changes, Kulikowski said she’s excited for the market to open this season. It’s a chance to support small, local businesses who might otherwise be struggling in the midst of a pandemic, she said.

“[The] Arctic market is an exciting thing for residents every year anyway,” she said. “And having been in the restricted recommendations for so long, I think people are looking for little things to look forward to, and we’re definitely excited that we get to offer something.”

Less mingling this summer

In Fort Smith, the Desnedé Farmers’ Market is considering its options for an anticipated start date in July.

The market already takes place outside, so “it’s pretty easy in that regard to comply with the social distancing,” said market vice-president Alyssa Etsell.

Customers will be encouraged to come to the market, get what they need, and leave when they’re done to keep the number of those gathered to a minimum. That means there won’t be as much mingling this year.

A sign welcomes visitors to the Desnedé Farmers' Market in an image posted to Facebook by the market's organizers

A sign welcomes visitors to the Desnedé Farmers’ Market in an image posted to Facebook by the market’s organizers.

For those who see markets as a social activity, that might be tough.

“I often heard last year [at the market] when I was volunteering, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen you in three weeks, what have you been up to?’” said Etsell. “So, it serves its purpose … as a community
gathering point.”

The Desnedé Farmers’ Market is frequently marketed as an attraction for tourists in Fort Smith. It also gives local artisans, farmers, and creators a chance to test-drive business ideas, which Etsell said encourages innovation.

“I would say our overall hope with the farmers’ market as it continues to grow, and in future years, is that that continues to happen,” she said. “So, that’s important to keep up despite Covid.”

To better determine how they will move forward, Etsell said Desnedé will be watching how other markets in the territory adjust, such as the Yellowknife Farmers’ Market, which typically opens in early June.

The Yellowknife Farmers’ Market declined an interview request, stating its board is “still not in a position to make any decisions re the summer market.”

By email, president Hannah Eden said: “We will be releasing a public statement to our vendors first and then on our social media networks to the community.”

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