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Farmers' Markets

Farmers’ markets are considered an essential service under the BC state of emergency and are expected to comply with hygienic practices and physical distancing to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
Last updated: March 25, 2021
The advice below is based on current recommendations and may change. Please reference materials and recent updates from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, Ministry of Health and BC Centre for Disease Control.

Farmers’ markets are essential food and agriculture service providers. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, indoor and outdoor farmers’ markets are expected to comply with recommendations and orders from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO). The COVID-19 safety plan must be updated in accordance with current PHO orders and guidance. For example, customer numbers are to be restricted by the size and space within the market. Under the Gathering and Events order farmers market owners, managers, vendors and customers have specific responsibilities.  Owners must be satisfied that managers are aware of requirements under the market COVID-19 safety plan. Managers must ensure requirements are met, including vendor health-checks prior to attending the market. Owners, managers and staff must advise persons who cannot safely enter the market to leave. Customers must comply with signs, directions or measures intended to promote physical distancing and to prevent congregation. Consult the PHO order to ensure you are meeting the latest requirements.

Municipalities are involved in interpreting provincial orders, as they issue business licences to farmers’ markets; in some cases they are owners of the property where the farmers’ markets operate.

The following applies to indoor AND outdoor markets:
  1. Vendor booths are set-up with a physical barrier or 2 metres distance between booths and positioned to facilitate a one-way movement of customers through the market.
  2. Maintain a 2 metre distance or provide a physical barrier between vendors and customers to prevent transmission of respiratory droplets. Where not practical vendors are required to wear masks.
  3. Post signs reminding customers about physical distancing requirements: 
    • Through-out the market, 
      • Reminding people to avoid congregation
    • In seating areas, arrange picnic tables and chairs, and post signs reminding customers
      • that groups must seat themselves two meters apart from other groups‎
      • that there is not more than 6 people at a table from one group
The following applies to indoor markets only:‎
  1. Calculate the maximum number of people that can be safely accommodated in the market.This should be equivalent to 5 square metres of space per person, and this number should be documented in the COVID-19 safety plan. 
  2. Monitor the number of patrons entering the market and ensure this number does not exceed the number stated in the COVID-19 safety plan. 
  3. Direct traffic through the market through the use of chalk or tape markings on the ground, ropes, barriers or other markers as required. Physical distancing poster (PDF).
  4. Post signs and create an environment in the market where customers can practice safe physical distancing of 2 metres, keep moving and avoid congregation points.
  • Customers must not enter any farmers’ market if they feel ill,
  • Customers are required to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, including farmers' markets
  • Customers are recommended to wear masks in outdoor public spaces
Farmers' market managers and vendors:
Check the WorkSafe site requirements for Health Checks and Masks. The requirements for farmers markets described in the PHO Gathering and Events order are described below:
  • Managers must ensure vendors carry out and pass health checks each day vendors participate at a market.
  • If a manager is unsatisfied with the vendors health check they must not permit the vendor to be present at the market.
  • Vendors must perform health checks and confirm with managers they have passed the health check, otherwise they must not be present at the market.
  • A person must not enter or must leave a market if advised by the owner, manager or staff that they person cannot be safely accommodated, for example, if health check requirements are not met.
  • Masks may be required to be worn by the vendor when a two metre physical distance, or physical barrier between vendors and customers, are not possible or practical. 
  • Vendors are not required to wear a mask when 
    • the vendor is unable to wear a mask without assistance from another person,
    • health condition or impairment,
    • the mask is removed temporarily to identify the vendor or communicate with a customer,
    • the vendor is eating or drinking and not involved with a customer.  
More information about masking requirements, exemptions to masking requirements, and what to do when a customer refuses to wear a mask, can be found on the Employers & Businesses page.

This COVID-19 requirements poster for food premises is a useful reminder for vendors and employees. 

OUTDOOR MARKETS ONLY: may sell food and non-food items. May sell services, but not personal services.

INDOOR AND OUTDOOR MARKETS: may sell food items for human consumption, flowers, plants, seed and compost. 

RESTRICTED: Sampling of products and provision of personal services are not permitted in indoor or outdoor markets. 

Food items include fresh, frozen and prepared foods, take-away from food carts and food trucks, and pre-packaged liquor. This includes lower risk foods prepared at home and higher risk foods as described in the Temporary Food Market Guidelines. (TFM guidelines)

Vendors are allowed to sell:

  • Fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs
  • Frozen pre-packaged meats and frozen ready-to-eat pre-packaged foods (e.g., pies, samosas, meals)
  • Home-prepared low risk foods as identified in Appendix I of the TFM guidelines
  • Higher risk foods prepared in an approved facility
  • Pre-packaged non-alcoholic beverages
  • Liquor only in sealed retail containers (e.g., bottles, cans)
  • Take-away meals from food carts and food trucks
  • Edible plants and seedlings
  • Flowers, plants, seed and compost
Note: On-line vendors of indoor farmers' markets may continue to sell non-food items for pick-up or delivery to customers (described under additional measures).

In indoor and outdoor markets:

  • Provide hand-washing facilities with running water, soap and paper-towels for hand-washing and drying and/or access to hand sanitizers for vendors and customers
  • Provide hand sanitation supplies in customer areas and post or erect signs reminding customers to regularly wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. Hand hygiene poster.

Handling of products, including food and non-food items:

  • Vendors are encouraged to pre-package prepared foods to minimize direct contact by customers
  • Prepared foods (i.e. bakery items for e.g., breads, muffins) that are not pre-packaged foods at the time of sale must be protected by a barrier (i.e. sneeze guard) or stored away from customer access. Vendors must package the product at time of sale.
  • Customers of farmers' markets must not use their own containers; vendors must dispense all unpackaged prepared foods and takeaway foods.
  • Where customers self-dispense foods (unpackaged fresh and pre-packaged prepared foods)  vendors must
    • Provide hand washing or hand sanitizing nearby
    • Post signs about hand hygiene and physical distancing measures
    • Implement a frequent cleaning and sanitizing of booths and utensils used at the booth‎.                          
  1. Food sampling activities, including by the glass sales of wine or other alcohols are not allowed.
  2. Regional health authorities may process temporary food permits for the purpose of selling food but not sampling food.
  3. Markets must cancel activities that promote gatherings, such as demonstrations.
  4. Markets may play recorded background music or engage live musicians to play background music but must not allow customers to congregate at that location. We do not recommend artists sing near customers (to limit risk of respiratory droplet spread from artists). Markets should not be promoting or advertising music at the market. Background music should not be louder than normal conversation.
  5. Market vendors selling ready-to-eat foods may package foods into single use or closed take-away containers or brown bags and post signs advising customers to comply with physical distancing requirements.
  6. Markets must implement enhanced frequency of cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces within the market.
  7. Markets must restrict entry to anyone who is ill; vendors, if they are ill, should not attend and customers who are ill should also be advised to not enter the farmers’ market.
  8. Farmers’ market guidelines can be found on the BCCDC web-site. As with any foods prepared at home for sale at the market, if you are ill, or someone in your household is ill, do not prepare or package foods, including low risk foods. 
  9. Establish pick-up points in farmers’ markets (for e.g., drive-thru pick-up where feasible) for on-line orders.
  10. Where feasible create cashless payment systems through on-line orders and point of sale devices in vendor booths.
  11. On-line sales of food and non-food items from organized markets are not restricted. However, 
    • high risk foods made in an unapproved facility may not be sold on-line
    • non-food items must not be picked up at the market (see item 13)
  12. On-line food sale items may be picked up at the farmers’ market in a designated area or pick-up point. Choose an area where congregation with other customers can be avoided. To avoid congregation in the market and in market parking areas alternate preferred options are:
    • delivery of on-line items, 
    • pick-up outside of normal market hours.
    • pick-up outside of the market, or
    • curb-side pick-up,  
  13. Non-food items may be sold on-line, but must not be picked up at the market. They may be picked up by customers when pick-up is compliant with the Gathering and Events order, section J: Drive-through and drive-in events.   Some examples include pick-up in adjacent parking lot, pick-up outside of market hours, or pick-up in another location.  Check with your local market manager for specific details.
  14. As they open, information about BC Farmers' Markets Online will be added to the BC Farmers' Market Trail website. 
SOURCE: Farmers' Markets ( )
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