Farmers Markets anticipating growth and success this season
AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — When the pandemic hit in 2020, farmers markets had to shift their operations and rethink how to continue serving customers.
“For markets that were already operating in small margins, I think that was really difficult. Some markets had to close completely,” Megan Marshall, Director of Food Access for Project Grows said.
But farmers markets got to work to get safety protocols in place and prove they were essential as more people needed reliable places to find food.
“We saw a lot of support from the community during the pandemic,” Marshall said.
Project Grows is currently taking vendor applications for Waynesboro’s Farmers Market, which is set to kick off again in May.
While the past year was tough for farmers markets, Project Grows is anticipating seeing more growth and success this year, especially as vaccines continue to be administered.
“People who were able to come to the market regularly last year I think will be coming again and excited to participate, excited to see our vendors again, and I anticipate seeing more people come to. People that maybe were a little hesitant to participate in the market last year,” Marshall said.
But while the market will welcome more people, there still will be COVID-19 protocols in place.
“We are still going to be following mask protocols at the markets and following state guidelines as well as CDC guidelines, so we’re just hoping that people will just keep following those guidelines so that we can stay safe and open during the season,” Marshall said.
The Farm Bureau of Virginia reports that many people across the state have developed new food-purchasing habits, which also sets up Farmers Markets for continued success. Marshall agrees based on what she’s seen locally.
“I think it’s definitely something that has changed. I think people are really wanting to invest themselves into the local food economy and to support the community, and I think that was something so special to see this year just how people were wanting not just to support local food and purchasing local food but to support community members and farmers in the area,” Marshall said.
And Marshall thinks that will be something that people will continue to want to do even as we move past the pandemic.
The Farm Bureau also notes that vendors have also increased their online presence and have found creative ways to continue serving the community, which will help them even after we move past the pandemic.
Marshall noted that the Waynesboro Farmers Market at Constitution Park will be open May through October this year on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
They are also continuing the SNAP matching program for customers to get benefits doubled at the markets.
The fresh food donation program is continuing this year, too. Customers can purchase food from vendors and choose to donate it to local pantries or shelters.
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