Like many of us, I have been thinking about the impacts of the coronavirus, both in the short and long term. I’ve also been reflecting on how different people handle what is clearly a stressful and challenging situation.
I was reading an article in the Record recently with this headline: Connection Between Farmers and Customers Stays Strong. The article goes on to outline various ways farmers are adapting to the pandemic by offering online purchases, curbside pick-up, and deliveries. The article also reflects on the importance of the relationship between farmers and customers, stating “Market vendors are more than just a means to get food. There is an actual relationship there between vendors, customers and farmers." Now, I suspect that anyone who is a regular attendee of our region’s farmer’s markets, is well aware of this. I know I definitely have my regular vendors that I look forward to seeing each week and that is in fact, one of the many great reasons to shop at a local farmer’s market.
This article got me thinking though about how people attending the market regularly, and developing these relationships, has been important in maintaining these services in this time of crisis.
For me, there is a strong parallel to the work many neighbours have been doing over the years through things such as the #lovemyhood neighbourhood strategy. I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with a variety of neighbourhood initiatives, associations, and committees that strive to encourage and strengthen connections between neighbours. Often those initiatives involve fun activities like plant swaps, easter egg hunts, or street parties. These events often result a great time had by all and perhaps some lovely memories as well.
I know some of my favourite neighbourhood memories include a neighbourhood event that partnered with Reception House where we welcomed over 70 newcomer children for a fun afternoon of tobogganing and hot chocolate. I also love the little Easter egg hunt our neighbourhood participates in each year. And I always look forward to the annual Pumpkinpalooza event in Victoria Park where neighbours put their jack o’lanterns on display for everyone to see.
I have been thinking about these events in light of the pandemic. As many of us spend far more time at home right now, the only people you may see are your neighbours. And I have been truly moved to see the creative ways neighbours are trying to stay connected during this time. I’ve seen themed neighbourhood art walks, chalking the walk, and evenings filled with pot banging in support of health care and essential workers. I’ve also seen people rely on neighbourhood email lists or Facebook groups to reach out to neighbours to offer a grocery run or just a friendly hello and check-in.
Although neighbourhood events can be a fun way to spend an afternoon with others (in non-pandemic times!), I suspect those events have actually been laying important foundations to stay connected. And thanks to the work of many neighbours, associations, and community groups, we see neighbours connecting in unique and important ways right now. What may have simply felt like a fun neighbourhood event only a few months ago, may prove to be an essential lifeline during this pandemic.