As the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of numerous events, the Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market has been one constant during the past year. The market is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary in 2021, as it continues to bring produce from local growers to tables throughout the region.
Other than a brief shutdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as an essential service, the farmers’ market has been open each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its 79 Derby Street location. Even throughout the winter months, the site continued to operate – and even thrived – as it closely followed public health protocols to remain open indoors.
“We were open all winter – we even did two extra Christmas markets,” noted Jeannine Bastien, Site Manager for the Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market.
With warmer weather on the horizon, the market opened up outdoors for the first time, greeting customers on a beautiful, although chilly, Saturday morning.
“Saturday (May 1) was our first day outside,” Bastien said. “We felt the market clients would be more comfortable in an outside environment, even though it’s still a little cool.”
The market is currently featuring 12 vendors, which increases to about 20 as summer approaches and area gardens begin to open. To accommodate extra vendors, this year the Derby Street location will also have some booths located inside the building.
The Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market regularly features entertainment from local musicians, however live music at the site is currently not allowed. Volunteers were hoping to bring performances back to the market for the May long weekend – which would have been a kickoff for the 25th anniversary celebrations – but with COVID-19 case numbers still high in Ontario, that plan looks to be on hold.
“We think that May 22 might be a little tight since we are really not sure ahead of time what (the province) is going to allow,” Bastien explained. “We do plan on celebrations through the summer.”
The Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market also offers curbside pickup for anyone who would prefer to order in advance and stop by for their items. Upon arrival, market staff will bring the order out to the client’s vehicle.
Vendors at the market had a great year in 2020 – benefiting from a growing movement to purchase local produce.
“Last summer was absolutely awesome – we saw numbers that we’ve never seen before,” the market’s site manager said. “People were happy for a safe outing and somewhere to go.”
Bastien said she expects the Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market to once again be busy as it celebrates it’s 25th year, and hopes even more shoppers in the area will discover what a great place it is to visit.
“We want people to know we are open for business, our vendors are prepared and we are following all protocols. It’s a safe place to be, with some great food.”
Anyone wishing to find out more information on the Vankleek Hill farmers’ Market can visit its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/vkhmarket.