A local farmer’s market manager is disappointed by the lack of communication she has received from the municipal government in the past three months about the upcoming season for farmer’s markets.
According to Ruthie Cummings, founder and market manager of the YGK West Market (also known as the West Market Kingston), the season normally would have started the first weekend in March, but due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders and the silence from the City, the season has been pushed back by five weeks.
Because the YGK West Market is located on public property, Cummings needed the City’s approval and lease agreement in order to go ahead with the market and after the federal and provincial government deemed farmer’s markets as essential services in early March, the city of Kingston has not been very helpful.
“The city basically ghosted us,” said Cummings. “I have been emailing them constantly since the beginning of March and I have 30 people depending on my decision.”
According to Cummings, setting up a farmer’s market for a season is difficult and complex at the best of times. Months of reviewing applications, confirming that vendors’ products are handmade and locally sourced, then securing a venue, updating the website, advertising on social media, and finalizing permits, signage and marketing sponsorship. But this year, even more was involved with the planning, including changing their entire model and venue in order to satisfy Public Health guidelines.
Due to the closure of commercial kitchens and other manufacturing facilities, Cummings has had to make a few changes in order to keep and help her vendors.
“They immediately lost their line of revenue, so I wanted to take a different angle with it,” she said. “We have rented a location that is a Public Health certified commercial kitchen as our pickup site so all vendors can actually work out of that kitchen in the off hours to produce their products.”
Despite these efforts, they have been met with barriers from the City with no input on how they are to proceed and when they can set up their venue at Centre 70. And, as time goes by, money goes by with it.
“People are losing their jobs, they are selling off their second cars and summer properties and people are scared,” said Cummings. “It has literally taken me all of April and May to even get one call back.”
Cummings says that this lack of communication is insulting and disappointing. As efforts are made to open up the businesses in the downtown core, she said that she feels ignored as an essential service.
“I believe that the City of Kingston is looking at farmers markets like it’s some sort of tourist attraction,” said Cummings. “We are not a tourist attraction, we are a licensed and insured not-for-profit community service.”
After multiple efforts to sign the lease for Centre 70 and no communication from the city, Cummings has signed a lease taking over Bob’s Butcher Shop at 730 Front Road. The YGK West Market will be operating out of the storefront for online order pickups, and an actual farmers’ market retail pick up will take place every week from Wednesdays to Saturdays.
In the meantime, Cummings said that she is hopeful that an outside version of the farmer’s market can resume later in the summer.
“People love going to farmers markets. They love going and speaking to the farmers, they love having direct contact with the food that they’re eating,” she said. “We still have that community service to our community. But it’s that social aspect of it that’s going to be sorely missed.”
Online orders can be made here.
Kingston’s other farmers’ markets during the pandemic
The Kingston Public Market, also known as the Farmers’ Market in Springer Market Square, is currently waiting for information from a number of authorities before moving forward, according to the City of Kingston.
“The City continues to review and receive updates on best practices from other municipalities, public safety protocols from Farmers’ Markets Ontario and will seek advice from KFL&A Public Health to develop any re-opening guidelines for Kingston,” said Jennifer Pinarski, a Communications Officer for the City of Kingston in a statement to the Kingstonist.
“At this time the City does not have a set date for when the Kingston Public Market will open for in-person shopping,” she also said in the statement. “Understanding the importance of supporting local businesses and food security, the City encourages residents in the meantime to contact their favourite market vendors for alternate ways to purchase goods where available.”
While the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market could not be reached by time of press, that market has already made it known they are offering online orders with pick-up on their usual market day of Sundays. While its open air market is currently closed due to the pandemic, residents can find out all about the market’s vendors and how to place orders online here.
Jemma Dooreleyers is a Kingstonian who is about to enter her fourth year at Ryerson School of Journalism. She has been a contributor for the Kingstonist in the past and is excited to be a full-time intern. She has written for a number of student publications such as the Ryersonian, Kaleidoscope, the Eyeopener, Her Campus and the White Wall Review. This year, she was the Arts Editor for Ryerson Folio, a general interest magazine. She is currently back in Kingston for the time being, social distancing with her mom, a dog, and two cats.