B.C. farmers forced to change the way they do business

Restaurant closures and increased consumer interest in specific products has had an impact on producers’ operations

Producers in British Columbia are seeing changes in how some sales are coming in with COVID-19 now a reality.

Matthew L’Heureux, who owns Aurora View Farms with his wife near Prince George, B.C., has seen an increase in sales, especially their online sales.

The beef operation offers home delivery and sells at a farmers market in Vancouver.

L’Heureux said he would like to send more animals to have butchered but can’t at present.

“They’ve (slaughter houses) given me a couple of extra, but it’s the most I could do.”

Wes Gilmore with Painted River Farm on Barnston Island in Surrey, B.C., also sells beef.

“We only do seven or eight steers a year at the most. We probably could have sold twice as much right at the beginning of this. It’s still going on,” he said.

New customers have also been contacting the company.

Egg sales have increased for them but hay sales have decreased.

Lydia Ryall with Cropthorne Farm on Westham Island in Delta, B.C., said they have been impacted as well.

The farm usually brings in temporary foreign workers and, although the workers are still expected to come, there is uncertainty about how it will work out.

When restaurants had to switch to take-out only, that also affected Cropthorne Farm.

“Right now, restaurants make about 20 percent our income throughout the year but this time of year, it is about 40 to 50 per cent of our income through restaurant sales. Some people have switched to take-out, but I would say it dried up pretty darn fast,” she said.

Ryall said she has seen an increase in sales at the last several farmers markets in Vancouver.

“We definitely had to change how we’re set up at the farmers market. It’s very different than what it was at the beginning of March,” she said.

Randy Elliott, operations manager with Vancouver Farmers Markets, stated there has been a number of changes implemented because of COVID-19.

“We’ve had to create zones in the market to ensure we’re meeting the right occupancy for each market area. Right now, it’s at 50 people per area as the province has stated.”

Layout and spacing has also changed to allow for more room between people.

Farmers markets have been deemed an essential service in B.C., which Elliott said was welcome news.

“Farmers need to be able to feed the people. That was really encouraging for us to be able to maintain that status,” he said.

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