Responding to tough times
Along with the rest of the world, the Bellingen Growers Market has been working through how to best respond to COVID-19.
It is a huge challenge. We are very concerned to maintain our community's safety. We are also very concerned about our region's food security and how to maintain the community's access to fresh food and keep the local food production system robust and functional.
One of the most immediate priorities with the COVID-19 threat was to change one of the market's functions - as a gathering place for the community. And to ensure social distance practices were brought into place during the purchase of goods to keep the public and stallholders safe.
For the market on the 28th March 2020, we set up a whole new system. We also had to limit our offering to fruit and vegetables and food products, seedlings and sanitising soap (our other stallholders are sorely missed).
New safety measures included:
- limiting crowds and ensuring social distance limits
- only having one entrance (Black Street) with no cars allowed into the Showground
- setting up sanitising bays at the entrance
- stall holders using sanitisers and safe procedures
- a cuing system with barriers
- signage and dedicated representatives providing advice to customers and ensuring social distance limits are met.
We are fortunate that the Showground allows an open air space and plenty of room to set up these systems safely.
And the community has been behind us. On that Saturday, a steady stream of customers quietly followed the new system, waiting, ordering, collecting and leaving immediately. It was a strange experience for all who are used to the colour and liveliness of our regular markets but a relief to all to see that we could all make that transition.
Response and review is ongoing. We are constantly talking through the COVID-19 situation and our approach.
Knowing the virus is with us for many months, we are looking to the future. We are currently exploring new measures including additional types of purchase and distribution options. We are currently consulting with all our growers and producers as to their needs and their capacity.
And our priority continues to be safeguarding the production of local food, whilst possible, whilst also protecting our growers, producers and our community.
Easter Market Cancelled
We have since decided not to hold our Growers Market this weekend, Saturday 12 April 2020 because it is Easter.
Although the government has instructed people not to travel, we do not want to risk having larger crowds in the market space at the Showgrounds. Last Saturday went really well and we want to make sure our new system continues to function safely.
Sue Kelly, President of the Bellingen Growers Market Steering Committee has been in constant consultation with stallholders and the community. She passes on thanks to all - community, producers and our volunteers - for their ongoing support and feedback.
"It is a really difficult time and we are putting all our efforts into looking after our community and to upholding our objectives of connecting community to local food. We are carefully monitoring regulations, which change week to week. At this stage, food markets are still supported by government. We are looking to see where we can make changes that keep the system functioning for the benefit of all".
Please feel free to contact us at any point.