Market future unclear

Tristia and John Lakey from Lakey Farm at a previous Lancefield and District Farmers Market

By Steph McNicol

ONLINE uproar by some Lancefield residents has left the Lancefield and District Farmers’ Market on the rocks, as organisers grapple to keep the community happy.

While farmers’ markets have been deemed essential by the government, some residents have expressed concern about people living in lockdown suburbs travelling to Lancefield for the market and spreading COVID-19.

A number of other regional farmers’ markets have felt public pressure to close their gates, including the Talbot market, which also decided to cease operation last minute.

The Weekly Times reported the Talbot market organisers experienced a ‘severe attack from trolls’ online, and had some people threatening to block off the streets if the market went ahead in July.

Similarly, fear from residents of unwelcome visitors to the Lancefield market resulted in the cancellation of the July event – to the disappointment of many market supporters and regular stall holders.

The market has traditionally been on Lancefield’s High Street on the fourth Saturday of each month, but was moved to Lancefield Recreation Reserve in March to help comply with social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The reserve’s committee of management then revoked permission for the market to be held on its grounds, citing concerns about outside visitors potentially spreading COVID-19 in the town.

Lancefield market co-ordinator Meggs Hannes said the battle to keep all parties satisfied had left her and many volunteers ‘burnt out’.

“In July we experienced a high amount of traffic on our Facebook page, which was from people who wanted to voice their concerns about the market being held,” Ms Hannes said.

“The discussion started on our page about what we would do about peole coming from lockdown areas.

“My response was that it was up to the police to be policing where people come from.

“Obviously, we put posts up saying people from lockdown areas couldn’t attend and we looked forward to seeing them after lockdown.”

Multiple letters of support for the market flooded into the North Central Review as residents insisted there were numerous benefits to the market.

“Strong communities are created when events like these connect people. Please help us secure the next market for the benefit of a strong healthy community. For the benefit of our health,” Lancefield resident Sally Richardson wrote.

Another resident said there were significant health and safety practises in place to ensure the safety of market goers.

“The temporary nature of the market stalls allows for easy cleaning and less contact with people,” Prudence Williams wrote.

“Social distance lines, mandatory wearing of face masks and gloves, availability of hand sanitizing agents and attendance restrictions are but a few measures that have already been instigated.”

Part of the battle had also been the withdrawal of support from the Lancefield Park committee who wanted no ‘responsibility’ if the market were to spread COVID-19.

Ms Hannes said she was unsure of the future of the market, but there had been some community members brainstorming how to keep it afloat.

“Friends of Lancefield Farmers’ Market are a group of Lancefield and Romsey residents who are determined to find a venue for the market,” she said.

The community group told the Review it was awaiting more information before it could confirm any details of the market’s future.

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