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Artisans are back at farmers' market — expanded layout may become permanent

'“It is livelier. The market is full. It is 100 per cent better, by far. We’re getting a lot more positive comments'

The return of artisans to the North Bay Farmers’ Market brought a renewed sense community to the market.

COVID restrictions meant artisans were excluded from the market’s opening, but those restrictions have been lifted clearing the way for their return.

Word quickly spread, and with the second weekend of the season now in the books, it was obvious customers enjoyed seeing their favourites back selling their products.   

“It is livelier. The market is full. It is 100 per cent better, by far. We’re getting a lot more positive comments. Because we also have the entire cobblestone area at the museum, we have double the space of a regular year. It is a lot better,” said market chair Mitch Deschatelets.

“At first the spacing was a big change, and we weren’t sure about it. Some people were unhappy that we had to leave such big gaps in between, but as of right now all we’re getting is positive comments about how well it is working out. You don’t feel like you’re bumping into each other. The vendors say it is easier to park. Everything is better. Actually, we’re thinking of maybe continuing with this type of set up even in a regular year. It is that much better.”

Miranda Maitland of Lakeside Acres, a farm on Lake Nosbonsing in Bonfield enjoyed seeing her customers again.  

“A lot of people are saying they really like the way the booths are spread out a little bit more because of social distancing. It doesn’t feel as though there is as much traffic coming through because we are so spaced out, but the sales are there and people are out and they’re buying. Everybody is doing great with social distancing.”

Maitland missed out on phase one of the market opening.     

“My soap is made with fresh milk from our own goats, so that makes me what is called a secondary producer.  As for the COVID standards, my soap was considered an artisan product. But I also have produce in the summer. If I had produce from day one, I would have been here, but I didn’t have produce yet, so we came in when the artisans came in last weekend.”

This is Maitland’s fifth season at the summer market.

“It has been very different being on the farm on Saturdays and not seeing everybody. We were still doing drop-off’s but it wasn’t the same. To actually be able to see everybody again, especially the other vendors is great. It is its own little community,” said Maitland.

The early closing of the winter market due to COVID was challenging.

“I did okay with my deliveries throughout that last little bit," she said.  

"It was that time in between May and when the market opened for artisans last weekend that I really missed out on quite a bit. And I usually do workshops too in the spring. The workshops usually cover my spring costs, so those workshops we didn’t get to do. So that was a big one.”

Cari Davis of Mud Dog Creek Natural Soy Candles was able to get in during phase one of the opening.

“I was already here with the things we produce on our farm," said Davis.  

"We are an alternate egg farmer, so we come with duck and goose eggs. But it was just nice to be able to come back with everything that we offer our customers. We have a wide variety of 100 per cent soy candles in addition to what we produce on our farm,” said Davis who noticed a different buzz at the market with the return of the artisans.

“Definitely the energy has changed. We have lots of smiles as things start to open up to people. People are still very respectful when it comes to spacing, but they’re pretty excited to be out. For some people, this is the first social activity they have had in quite some time.”

Jodi Richer is a big supporter of local artisans both personally and professionally.

“We’re extremely excited to see them back. Actually, my daughter was just saying how much she missed them, so it is really nice getting out and seeing people moving around.  Everything is so well coordinated and there is enough space and signage for people to properly distance, so it is fantastic.”

It is an opportunity for Richer, owner of Timeless Staging and Northern Estate Sales, to offer an added venue for people to sell their work.

“I think it is all about community. We offer giftware and we are promoting local vendors and products. So today actually I approached about 10 different vendors and I will be taking their products into my own store in the next couple weeks, so I am really excited about that.”

The market is once again open on Wednesday’s, which this week happens to be  Canada Day.

“Things are ramping up every week because we have more and more produce coming in. And now with the artisans in full time, it is looking more normal,” said the market chair.

The Wednesday market runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.