Non-food vendors have been banned from the Duncan Farmers Market for now as a COVID-19 measure. (Nicholas Miller photos)

Non-food vendors have been banned from the Duncan Farmers Market for now as a COVID-19 measure. (Nicholas Miller photos)

Editorial: Allow non-food vendors at farmers markets

Restrictions are necessary, but there is a clear double standard at play here

We agree with restrictions that the government has brought in to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in our province and in our communities.

This pandemic is highly contagious and has become increasingly deadly this fall in B.C.

However, sometimes these regulations aren’t perfect when first rolled out, and need a second look. One brought in recently that bans non-food vendors from outdoor farmers’ markets is such a rule.

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We can only speculate that this regulation was brought in to discourage the organizing of large outdoor craft markets as vendors tried to make up for the cancellation of all indoor craft fairs — a Christmas staple in many communities, that artists and artisans count on to get them through the year in the black.

Many artisans have regular booths at farmers’ markets throughout the year. These farm markets have had to organize appropriate physical distancing and sanitation protocols, and limit numbers to remain open, just as indoor businesses have had to do. It’s worth noting that when lockdowns began in the spring, farm markets were initially shut down themselves, before a reconsideration took into account the fact that they are an important part of the food chain for many residents.

So while we’re all for discouraging gatherings of people, there really is no difference between allowing indoor shops to remain open through the all-important Christmas retail season and allowing non-food vendors to continue doing business at farmers markets.

It might even be argued that selling outside with the attendant air circulation is actually less risky. There is a clear double standard here, with local producers and small business owners (the non-food vendors) on the losing side.

These vendors count on the Christmas season for a significant portion of their yearly income. The pandemic has already caused huge losses for most of these businesses. To miss out on the holiday season now could be catastrophic for many.

If the province is planning to mandate the closure of small shops selling crafts, jewelry and gifts, that’s different, and the exclusion of non-food vendors would be fair (though a huge blow to our communities). But as far as we know, this is not in the cards.

It is time for the province to take a second look.

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