It looked a little different, but the fresh, local products and community feel was the same.
The Culpeper Downtown Farmer’s Interim Drive Thru Market Only opened under sunny skies Saturday morning for the season across town in the large parking lot at Culpeper Baptist Church on West Street.
Sponsor Culpeper Renaissance Inc. changed the market’s regular location from a smaller lot at the end of East Davis Street near the Depot to allow more room for vehicles to pass through during the continued pandemic and need for social distancing.
Gatherings greater than 10 people are still banned statewide and local cases continue to rise – and are expected to do so in coming days as the results of various testing sites are known.
At the Farmer’s Market, customers adjusted, cruising slowly past more than a dozen vendors, many wearing face masks, who were selling produce, baked goods, eggs, plants, herbs, soaps, meat, flowers, jam, prepared food and more.
By 10:30 a.m., three hours in, 150 cars had passed through.
“It’s been very steady and I think it is really organized,” said Samantha Sheads, manning a CRI booth near the drive-thru entrance. Preordering and prepaying was highly recommended and many market visitors had done so while others shopped on the spot. Customers can use EBT cards to buy food.
“Once you get the hang of everything, it’s going super smooth,” said vendor Madison Morgan, of C&T Produce in Stafford. Cartons of bright red, ripe strawberries were going like hotcakes, added produce vendor Aaron O’Leary.
“Carrots, broccoli, onions … it’s all grown on 538 acres in Stafford,” he said along with many other varieties of Virginia fruits and veg.
Culpeper County vendor Barry Bader sold heirloom produce and herbs, vegetable plants and sourdough products all made on his Stevensburg area farm under the business name, “Anteseedent.” The tagline is, “Planting the past.”
“Our big crop,” not yet harvested, he said, “is garlic – we’ll do about 2,000 head, and fingerling potatoes if they survive the frost,” Bader said of a few frozen mornings in May. “All my nut trees got hit pretty hard. As for the new format Farmer’s Market, “I think it’s working ok. I think a lot of people did preorder,” he said.
A little farther down, Orange County vendors Harry and Nan Hopkins, of Rhoadesville, handed out samples of their handmade natural soap through the driver’s window of passing vehicles. The name of their company is simply, “Use This Soap” on Facebook and at usethisoap.com.
The couple also tends beehives for honey to sell and use in their products. The contagious coronavirus has made customer skittish about getting close enough to experience their wares, said Nan Hopkins.
“They want to be able to smell it,” she said, or they might want to talk privately about special skin needs. “We’re all about customer service.”
“We love talking to the folks,” added Harry Hopkins.
Still, his wife said, she loves the larger parking lot format for the Farmer’s Market.
“You got to do what you got to do,” Nan Hopkins said.
Customer Cynthia Beamer passed through the orderly car procession in a van with her window down, and a child in the back. Near the end of the Farmer’s Market, she had purchased eggs, potatoes, greens and ground beef, all pre-ordered.
“It’s great for what we have to do right now,” Beamer said.
The Culpeper Downtown Farmer’s Market will be open 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Culpeper Baptist parking lot until further notice.
“It’s been a good turnout so far,” said CRI volunteer Kirk Briggs, directing a steady flow of traffic into the open air sale.