A drive-thru, mini farmers market in a Gasoline Alley parking lot has been satisfying Central Albertans’ yearnings for locally grown vegetables each Saturday during the pandemic.
“It’s been crazy busy. People really appreciate the curbside service. They’re not in a building with other people.
“It’s more of a distancing way to get the groceries they want,” said Shelley Bradshaw, owner of Beck Farms, which is one of five farms behind Innisfail Growers market.
Three weeks ago, Innisfail Growers moved its indoor Red Deer Winter Market to a strip mall parking lot at 197 Leva Ave., where businesses have temporarily closed, just north of Turple Bros. Ltd.
She said last week, customers started arriving about an hour before the market opened at 10 a.m., and an estimated 80 vehicles were looped through the parking lot until 1 p.m., when the market closed.
Saturdays were cold in recent weeks, but staff were prepared to take orders outside the vehicles, and fill and deposit orders inside the vehicles, while people stayed warm behind the wheel.
The debit-only service also made payment easy through vehicle windows.
For about eight years, Innisfail Growers has operated its small Saturday morning market in Eastview’s community centre, but now City of Red Deer regulations prevent gatherings of more than 15 people.
Bradshaw said Innisfail Growers wants to keep the market going until the summer markets open in Red Deer, which have been cancelled until at least June 30.
Meanwhile, Beck Farms and a group of local investors have already been working toward building an indoor farmers market for this fall in Gasoline Alley on a vacant site on Laura Avenue, just south of Trail Appliances.
She said consumer demand definitely exists.
“We’ve just seen an insurgence of people wanting to get that local product, so we’re hoping to be able to continue to supply that for them. They may not be trusting what they get from outside of the country.”
Bradshaw is a regular vendor at the year-round, indoor Calgary Farmers’ Market, which is still operating through the pandemic, as well as providing curbside pickup.
“They only have so many people in the market at a time. The market has done an excellent job of social distancing and disinfecting and following all the rules and regulations.”
She said Innisfail Growers have sold the last of its carrots, but there’s still a winter supply of potatoes, onions, cabbages and parsnips, along with preserves and caramel corn at the Saturday market in Gasoline Alley.
A few more vendors have been asked to join the market.
“It will only be a week or so until we have greenhouse lettuce and beans, and then the tomatoes will be coming on. Before we know it, asparagus will be ready.”