Darren Holcombe, who recently took on the job as the 2020 Fireweed Community Market manager, poses for a photo on April 21. Holcombe has confirmed the Shipyards Park will be available for the market this summer and that food sales at the market can continue this year as an essential service, but what that will look like is something he and the market board are still working on. (Submitted)

Fireweed Community Market officials ready for a very different season

Consultations underway with local vendors

It’s a weekly outing for many residents during the summer.

Thursday afternoon at the Fireweed Community Market at Shipyards Park — a chance to stroll the market for local produce and goods, meet with neighbours and friends and maybe grab a bite to eat at one of the food trucks stationed there.

There’s no doubt the weekly market will be a very different operation this year with physical distancing requirements in place and other regulations aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, but organizers are working to offer a market in some form where local vendors can sell and shoppers can make those important local purchases.

Darren Holcombe, who was on the market board and has been a vendor with his partner for years, recently took on the job as the 2020 market manager.

While he’s confirmed the park will be available for the market this summer and that food sales at the market can continue this year as an essential service, what that will look like is something he and the market board are still working on.

“We are providing an essential service,” he said.

It’s also not known if the market will start in mid-May as it typically does.

As Holcombe said, officials will take time to work with vendors and public health officials to host a market where customers can purchase local food in one spot, while ensuring the health and safety of all.

“We’ve made no decision on the start date,” he said, noting officials want to firm up plans for the market first and are getting feedback from prospective vendors on the right date to start.

The market, he said, is typically a great place to socialize with customers making their way through the 25 to 40 vendor stalls, purchasing goods and chatting with one another. That can’t happen this year and prospective vendors are being asked for their thoughts on how the market might operate.

Among the methods being used to get the perspective of vendors were an email looking for feedback and an online open house hosted April 23.

It’s anticipated this year could see between 15 and 20 vendors in the market, as those selling local art and other such products won’t be able to participate due to the restrictions.

“Think of it as a grocery store, but outside,” Holcombe said of what the 2020 operations might look like.

It could be the market this year features vendor stalls widely spaced apart with chalk markings to indicate physical distancing spaces in lineups. There may also be areas flagged off and controlled access where market shoppers are to enter the market, as well directions on how pedestrian traffic is to flow through the market space.

A potential option being explored would be an online portal where residents could put in orders with vendors ahead of time and then go pick up their goods during market hours, a method that could make for quicker transactions.

Or it may be a digital list of vendors and how they can be reached for orders or if they sell their food at local shops around town.

Holcombe emphasized market organizers want to support vendors in whatever way they can “even just digitally.”

It’s also possible that whatever form the market takes at the beginning of the season could change by the end of the season depending on if and how restrictions to deal with COVID-19 change through the coming months. As Holcombe pointed out, the market is not a one-time event like so many others that have had to be cancelled in recent months.

“We have 18 episodes of the same event,” he said.

Given the situation with COVID-19, market officials started getting ready for the 2020 season earlier than usual.

Holcombe said while the market had an excellent manager in 2019 they would have been pleased to hire back, she is now in Ontario.

Knowing well how the market operates as both a vendor and board member, he decided to apply for the job (with the caveat he would leave the board if hired.)

“I have the ability to get right on it,” he said of readying for the summer amid a global pandemic that has brought a long list of changes to operations for any business or non-profit.

Along with considering how the Fireweed Community Market can operate locally within Yukon regulations and recommendations, that effort has also included looking at how markets in other jurisdictions are operating and adhering to distancing requirements and guidelines.

That effort will continue throughout the season as officials work to ensure residents have access to local food this summer and that vendors are able to sell their food products to locals.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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The Fireweed Community Market in 2017. The 2020 market is allowed to happen as it is deemed an essential service, but may look different to confirm with the recommendations of the chief medical officer of health. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

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