As the Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market comes up on its 25th anniversary, it is expanding the notion of the traditional market where shoppers can meet vendors in person. Setting up online ordering began in 2020 as the market began working with the Open Food Network, a not-for-profit organization that offers vendors an online platform to sell their local food and products.

The idea of online ordering and curbside pick-up moved up the priority list due to the current pandemic. The benefits to both buyer and producers are long-reaching, says Aartje den Boer, president of the Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market.

Vendors normally choose what and how much to bring to the Saturday morning, year-round market, according to den Boer, but it can happen that a shopper arrives late and a vendor is sold out. By ordering in advance, a shopper can be sure to get what he or she wants. The vendor can fulfil orders yet still bring more products for sale on market morning. While some of the vendors have online shops, all vendors will take orders by phone. In fact, an initial telephone call is the best way to find out how best to order from them. It’s a new way to “Meet the Vendor”!

The other bonus for vendors and shoppers alike is that products are available online, all of the time, for local food enthusiasts. Just because a vendor might not be at the market on a particular Saturday doesn’t mean that you cannot order from them and collect your purchases on Saturday morning.

Vendors bring their orders to the market on Saturday morning, where orders are sorted and prepared for each customer. For example, says den Boer, if you ordered butter tarts from one vendor, maple syrup from another vendor, sausages from another vendor and sourdough bread from another vendor, your items will be assembled and ready for curbside pick-up. A telephone number is posted outside on a sign and shoppers can drive up to the market building, call the telephone number on the sign, and the order is brought out to the shopper’s car allowing for safe, contactless pick-up. But of course, there is nothing preventing shoppers from coming in to browse and carrying out their own order, notes den Boer.

The market has been taking place at 79 Derby Avenue in Vankleek Hill since last summer. Market vendors were set up safely outdoors in the parking lot of the former day care centre during the summer and fall months, and moved indoors for the winter; vendors are set up from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday.

Late last year, the market developed a new website and spent some money on bumping up its social media presence, thanks in part to $5,000 in funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs “Agri Food Open for Business” grant. At the same time, new market volunteers have taken on larger roles, adding recipes and more to the market’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

New vendors are always welcome to join the market and sell at the market year-round or seasonally. Vendors may register as on-site Vendors, offer products for contactless Curbside Pick-up only, or both.

You can visit the Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market website here: www.vankleekhillfarmersmarket.ca to see the list of producers, bakers and vendors of local food products. Or visit the Open Food Network website and search for Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market to see the list of vendors and learn more about what they offer.