GOLOCAL

Northland growers and customers were reunited over the weekend, as farmers' markets opened up for the first time after weeks of closures due to Covid-19.

Stallholders around the region were thrilled to be back selling their produce again and customers were just as grateful, with reasonably good turnouts reported in Whangārei, Kerikeri and Paihia.

Whangārei Growers' Market co-founder Murray Burns said Saturday's market was the first in eight weeks, following the move to level 2 last Thursday, and it "went like we hoped".

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Security guards were on-site to take names and contact details for track-and-tracing reasons, and there was lots of hand sanitiser available, he said.

"Other than that, it was business as usual," Burns said.

"People maintained their physical space around each other. There was no overcrowding, no queues, and no problems. We were really pleased with the behaviour of everyone."

The iconic market on Water St last opened on March 22 just before the country went into complete lockdown.

Whangarei Growers' Market opened for the first time on Saturday after eight weeks of closures. Photo / supplied
Whangarei Growers' Market opened for the first time on Saturday after eight weeks of closures. Photo / supplied

While some growers around the region have been doing deliveries during level 4 and 3, many have not been able to.

Burns said Saturday's market had a "low-profile start" which saw around 70 per cent of growers turn out. About 1000 customers turned out between 5.30am and 11am, which is down from the usual 3000, he said.

"We didn't advertise because we didn't want to have a rush of people.

"People would have worried about queues.

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"There's a bit of fear in the community and it's going to take a while for people to gain confidence about going out.

"As long as we manage to keep Covid at no or low numbers, people's confidence will grow, it's just a time factor."

The Bay of Islands Farmers Market in Kerikeri was humming with customers yesterday.

Tables were set up at two entrances with track-and-trace forms for people to fill out, stalls were spaced a distance apart, and there was plenty of hand sanitiser available.

Rob and Carol Schluter, of Ikarus Coffee, were happy to see their customers after weeks of market closures and restrictions. Photo / Jenny Ling
Rob and Carol Schluter, of Ikarus Coffee, were happy to see their customers after weeks of market closures and restrictions. Photo / Jenny Ling

Market secretary Anna King said the Paihia market also opened on Thursday.

Though it was quiet, due mainly to a lack of tourists, stallholders "did really well considering," she said.

"It's great to be back and I know the growers and producers are happy to be back again."

Rob and Carol Schluter of Ikarus Coffee were happy to see their customers after many weeks.

Though the couple have been doing lots of online orders of their packaged coffee during lockdown and level 3, it was great to see people in person, Rob said.

"Everyone is being really sensible and aware of social distancing," he said.

"It's a happy time to reconnect with everyone, and you're even more appreciative of your customers."

The Bay of Islands Farmers Market in Kerikeri was gently humming on Sunday. Photo / Jenny Ling
The Bay of Islands Farmers Market in Kerikeri was gently humming on Sunday. Photo / Jenny Ling

Farmers Market New Zealand, which supports more than 800 vendors nationwide, said it has been working closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries to start working in a safe environment for both producers and customers.

"In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become clear that the link from farmer and consumer is vitally important," a spokesperson said.

"Farmers' markets operate in all regions of New Zealand every week where local food is sold by the person who has grown or produced it.

"The farmers market chain is very short, meaning that food is seasonal, fresh and packed with nutrients."

Old Packhouse Market in Kerikeri has been operating its café and bakery, along with a selection of fruit and vegetables, from behind a screened counter under level 2.

It will open its Saturday and Sunday markets with restrictions on May 23 and 24.
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