Farmers’ markets moving online: Taking innovative measures to continue to safely serve Nova Scotians
The Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia (FMNS) Cooperative has been closely monitoring the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s updates regarding news of the potential spread of COVID-19. Our cooperative, with over 30 farmers’ markets across Nova Scotia, has been tirelessly working with our partners across North America to ensure we follow best practices, and we’ve been working with each and every one of our members to ensure all of the most up-to-date NSHA and Federal health and safety precautions are being followed at all times. In addition, we’re going above and beyond with voluntary measures to minimize risks and ensure that our markets can continue to operate as essential economic infrastructure in Nova Scotia.
However, times are changing, and we must swiftly act to flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19 and protect Nova Scotians. On Tuesday, March 17th, Premier Steven McNeil has stated that public gatherings should be limited to no more than 50 people.
While FMNS believes that farmers’ markets represent essential economic infrastructure, running market days may no longer be feasible during this time of heightened social isolation. FMNS greatly respects and appreciates the economic importance of our province’s farmers’ markets to the thousands of independent businesses that call farmers’ markets home. Farmers’ markets are the foundation to thousands of jobs and the go-to point for healthy food and nutrition for tens of thousands of Nova Scotians. Now more than ever, our farmers’ markets can play an integral role.
With this in mind, FMNS believes the time is now to quickly pivot and adapt our farmers’ markets to these fast-changing times. This unique challenge will give us an opportunity to temporarily shift our business model to continue supporting our local producers, while safely providing food and necessities for Nova Scotians.
As of 10:00 am on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020, FMNS recommends that all farmers’ markets currently operating in Nova Scotia should cease holding market days, and immediately shift to establishing and running online marketplaces. FMNS has secured funding from the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture to help Nova Scotia’s farmers’ markets make this transition as quick as possible.
We will work with farmers’ markets across Nova Scotia to roll out this strategy, starting today.
We will implement necessary changes rapidly, and use the advantages of community, adaptability, and passion that are inherent in our farmers’ markets. We will galvanize public support by rapidly shifting our efforts not into closing our markets, but to adapting to the new market conditions and emerging needs of people through a new approach. People need safe spaces to pick up food, and until this subsides, people will need food delivered to their door.
FMNS wishes to stress that our farmers’ markets can use innovative approaches to continue operating, without the need for market days for the time being. With support from FMNS, farmers’ markets can pivot and adapt to new conditions: shifting their business model to continue supporting as many local producers as possible while finding new and innovative ways to safely provide food and necessities to Nova Scotians.
By launching these online stores as a unified cohort, we’re showing Nova Scotia that farmers’ markets are committed to cooperation, and that farmers’ markets continue to play an incredibly important role in Nova Scotia, even during times of duress.
Any farmers’ market that hasn’t been contacted yet by FMNS is encouraged to reach out to us immediately to join our program. We will provide this service free of charge to all of our markets. We will reimburse our member markets for the cost of online store subscriptions for those already operating online. Markets currently operating are encouraged to contact us immediately. Seasonal markets may join as well.
FMNS will work tirelessly, cooperatively with our markets across Nova Scotia, to rally community, coordinate masses of volunteers, create distribution networks, and get our food and our message out to people over the internet and through news outlets at a time when more people are using social media and checking the news than ever.
During these times, we wish to stress that we must continue monitoring updates and taking all necessary health and safety precautions. The situation can change at any time, and we owe it to Nova Scotians to stay informed.
FMNS wishes to stress that it’s important to stay informed while taking all necessary precautions during these times. We encourage all farmers’ market managers, staff, and vendors to constantly monitor Nova Scotia’s updates on COVID-19 by going to www.novascotia.ca/coronavirus.
We look forward to working with our markets to launch this cohort of online marketplaces. By working cooperatively, we can continue to serve Nova Scotians in a safe manner, while continuing to support our local producers.