Farmers, small business operators, and shoppers in St James are commending the Social Development Commission (SDC) for staging the Rose Hall Community Market and Business Fair on Thursday, which provided them with a marketing opportunity amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
From as early as 7 a.m., patrons converged on the Naz Children’s Centre in Rose Hall, where the SDC had booths strategically placed for 20 community businesses and 30 farmers from across St James and from as far away as Runaway Bay, St Ann; and Falmouth, Trelawny, to display their produce. The items on sale included ground provisions, honey, baked goods, along with textile items such as pillows and cushions.
Winston Samuels, owner and operator of the honey-producing Carlton Crest Farms in Spot Valley, St James, described the initiative as good for persons who could not do regular market shopping under the COVID-19 guidelines.
“I like the idea, and the SDC was able to put this farmers’ market and business fair together and bring it closer to the members of the community. They made the foodstuff more accessible to people who are not able to go to the market at this time,” said Samuels.
Richard Ferguson, a banana and sweet pepper farmer from Garlands in St James, said the event gave him an opportunity to make a sale on his produce, which he would normally only be able to secure at venues such as the Charles Gordon Market in Montego Bay.
“Normally, I would go by the Charles Gordon Market on Saturdays, but after hearing about this event, I took the opportunity to be here, and I think it should happen more often,” said Ferguson. “I have also been to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority market down by Catherine Hall, but it has been a while now that they have not had a market there, so this one is very good.”
Alecia Clarke, a shopper from Montego Bay, gave high marks to the fair’s easy accessibility of food items, which would not be possible in a more crowded or congested market setting.
“I think this event is a good one because it is not as hectic as the market. People can easily access fruits and vegetables and just do their shopping and go home,” said Clarke.
Randy Hayle, the SDC’s parish manager for St James, explained that the initiative began in May as a way to assist farmers and business operators who were affected by the downturn caused by the coronavirus.
“We have recognised that a number of persons, especially those who operate local businesses at the community level, would have been tremendously affected by the recent development of COVID-19, and as a result, some of these persons have lost their main source of income. Under the Local Economic Development Support Programme, we have provided this avenue across the island for those persons to come and sell their products and services and to generate income,” said Hayle.
The fair, which is set to run alongside other scheduled activities from the SDC until August, was most recently held in Harbour View in Kingston.