Stage 3 good for farmers’ market

CARP – Saturday (July 18) was day two of the province’s Stage Three re-opening as Canada slowly recovers from a still ongoing global pandemic.

Vendors at the Carp Farmers’ Market noticed a difference stating it was the busiest market of the season so far in the age of COVID-19 precautions.

The popular Carp Farmers’ Market made a measured return roughly a month ago on June 22. The look and feel changed dramatically in the time of COVID-19. Only 30 vendors, down from nearly a 100, no on-site food or food court, limited visitors and lots of physical spacing. It was a drastic change from the crowded social hub the event had turned in to over its first 29 years.

Last Saturday (July 18) was the first market held during the province’s Stage Three portion of the plan of recovery from the global pandemic. For the first time in nearly half-a-year, all Carp area businesses were allowed to be open on the same day as the farmers’ market.

Ten-year Carp Farmers’ Market vendor Catherine Cheff said she noticed a difference.

“It’s definitely busier today,” Cheff told West Carleton Online Saturday morning from her Cheff Fields Farm Alpacas and Garlic booth closest to the market’s entrance. “There was a longer line-up at 9:30 a.m. than usual. It’s so nice to see people out.”

Cheff has worked all four market so far this year. She says she feels safe and so do the shoppers.

“We’re still working with Stage One,” Cheff said referring to the market’s COVID-19 safety protocols. “All the safety precautions are here.”

Cheff has plenty of sanitizer available. She never makes physical contact with shoppers when exchanging goods or cash. While most customers are paying with debit or tap, Cheff brings a larger than normal float so no money is every re-used. All cash she receives goes in to a “dirty cash box.” Of course, there is physical distancing and masks.

Cheff’s 10 years’ experience at the Carp Farmers’ Market was mostly spent indoors in the Carp Exhibit Hall. It of course is closed during the pandemic and for the first time she finds herself as an outdoor vendor.

“The only difference is I have to set everything up, every time,” Cheff said.

The market has grown a bit since opening day – up to 39 vendors from 30 at the start of the year.

While the McNab-Braeside Township resident says she thinks Stage Three is helping bring more people to the market, there are other factors as well.

“I think a lot of people are just realizing we are open,” Cheff said.

Not a surprise as for the last several months, knowing what’s open and what isn’t during the pandemic is a confusing challenge.

Cheff, knows a few things about cleanliness and infectious diseases. When she is not working at her farm, she spends two days a week working as a registered nurse at the Renfrew Victoria Hospital. Cheff has worked at RVH since 2008. Before that she worked at the Ottawa Hospital.

Cheff says, even there, things are slowly returning to normal.

“Surgeries are up,” she said. “The emergency room fills up with people with their aches and pains and we didn’t see that earlier in the pandemic.”

Worried people were avoiding emergency rooms due to COVID-19, hospitals in Renfrew County and Lanark County released press releases in April and May “reminding” the public their emergency rooms were still open and safe despite the pandemic.

“I think people have moved on from COVID-19,” Cheff said. “We’re starting to live with it. It’s just interesting living in the world we are currently living in.”