The Innisfil Farmers’ Market is gearing up for another successful year, despite the ongoing pandemic and will be receiving a boost in funding from the Innisfil Community Foundation for the coming 2021 season.
Market manager Jaime Grant says interest in the market has exploded in the past year.
“We knew right off the get-go last year that there was a lot of interest in purchasing local because of COVID,” she said, “but we didn’t anticipate it to be quite that crazy.”
Unlike some farmers' markets, the Innisfil market decided to open for in-person shopping, following COVID protocols, and Grant said that each market day, vendors were selling out quickly due to a massive spike in customers.
This year, she is expecting more of the same, as monitoring the market’s website and social media has revealed that interest is up 300 per cent over last year.
“We’re expecting another bumper year, hopefully, if weather holds,” Grant said.
In the virtual meeting of Innisfil council, councillors received an update from market co-chair Rob Radcliffe, of Lakeview Gardens garden centre.
Radcliffe noted that the market has been recognized for past innovations by Farmers Markets Ontario.
"We’re very proud that we’ve been able to put Innisfil on the map in terms of Ontario’s farmers’ markets,” he said.
He also spoke of the success of last year's Innisfil market, held at both the Innisfil Recreation Complex south parking lot, and at Tanger Outlet Mall in Cookstown.
“It was a first for us having long lineups to get into the market,” Radcliffe said. “The Innisfil market broke records with numbers of visits last year, and we can’t tell you how much pride we all felt at this achievement.”
Despite a shortened season, the Innisfil Farmers' Markets attracted over 25,000 visitors, he said.
Radcliffe explained the need for continuing support from town staff, as well as financial support to help cover COVID-related costs, and initiatives that could "bring back live greenery" to brighten the markets' parking lot settings.
The hope is to install more planters — planters that were removed last year due to safety concerns during the pandemic, Radcliffe said. He noted that in 2019, the planters were used not only to grow flowers, but vegetables that were donated to the local food bank.
"If we could do that again this year, that would make us all happy," he said.
Although customer numbers are expected to continue to increase in 2021, there are no plans to add additional vendors, beyond the 40 "regulars" already participating.
Radcliffe identified a need for $7,000 in funding — up from the $5,000 provided last year — due to additional COVID-related costs to ensure the safety of both shoppers and vendors, and to cover the loss of revenues due to the cancellation of events and a fall indoor market.
Rather than ask the town for the funding, he said the farmers' market has approached the Innisfil Community Foundation to establish a new partnership that would provide a grant to cover the shortfall.
"It is our hope that council will support this," he said, noting the market will still need town staff support and storage space for the coming season. "Any and all help is appreciated."
Coun. Kevin Eisses congratulated the Innisfil Farmers' Market on its 10th season, establishing the market "as not just a place to buy and sell, but a vital place in this community."
“I have never seen line-ups like I saw last year, but it was worth lining up for,” said Mayor Lynn Dollin.
Council voted to support the grant agreement with the Innisfil Community Foundation.
The market will be launching again this year on June 3 in the Innisfil Recreational Complex south parking lot, where it will operate every Thursday from 1-6 p.m., and in the Tanger Outlet Mall parking lot every Friday, starting June 11.
"We got off to a late start last year. We were three, four weeks behind," said Radcliffe.
This year, the market is prepared, and there is "much optimism" for 2021," he added.