Opening Day for the 2020 Reston Farmers Market (From left) Brian Pittack, Lake Anne Volunteer, Fran Lovaas, Reston Farmers Market Co-Market Master, Linda Fuller, Lake Anne Florist (retired), John Dudzinsky, Herndon Market Manager and John Lovaas, Reston Farmers Market Co-market Manager.
Photo by Mercia Hobson.
Reston Farmers Market operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority opened for its 23rd consecutive season Saturday, May 9, usual place and usual hours, but in unusual times. COVID-19 gripped the County. The temperature registered 35 degrees and winds upwards of 25 miles per hour blew as the opening bell rang. Yet, the memory most seared into Market Manager John Lovaas’s mind, he said afterward, was the facemasks. Everyone wore them-shoppers, vendors, volunteers and the media.
Pamela Smith, Community Horticulture Supervisor at Fairfax County Park Authority, was on hand to assist. "In this time of COVID-19, we weren't sure the Farmers Markets would happen or how," she said. Collaborative preparations had been underway for weeks on end though to comply with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's social distancing orders and safety guidelines designed to protect everyone.
The first of three markets to open in May, the Lake Anne Shopping Center parking lot, where the vendors set up their stalls, looked quite different. Market Managers John and Fran Lovaas spread out the modest 10 by 10-foot tents to facilitate social distancing. They and volunteers allowed a limited number of shoppers into the market from two entrances where taped Xs on the pavement kept individuals 6-feet apart. No more than two family members could enter the market with one customer per stall. Pink fluorescent tape arrows indicated one-way shopper traffic and then to marked exits. Volunteers encouraged everyone to wear face coverings.
Some vendors, like 78 Acres bagged purchases for shoppers, who then paid either with cash or credit card, although cards were preferred. Other vendors, like Spring Valley Farm and Orchard, delivered to shoppers their pre-ordered, prepaid seasonal market baskets, available online.
After the first County Farmers Market of the year closed on its Opening Day, Lovaas reported patron count numbered in the 800s. "Not up to traffic on a more normal early May opening, but for a COVID opener, we were quite pleased," he said.
Comments on the Reston Farmers Market Group Facebook page
Laurie Tyler Todd:” Beautiful! All in masks. Volunteers are limiting the number of customers and guiding us on a one-way route with spacing marked at each booth. Much produce is pre-bagged. Couldn't be better!”
Lesley Tyson: “Thank you, everyone, for your care and respect for each other that made it work!”
Michael Kasprzyk: ”Well done and just a little closer to normalcy. Safe and well done. They won't stay if we don't visit and shop with them.”
Tori Gibbs: ”It was wonderful to be back and shop in a safe, cheerful space.”
Janet Cushing: ”I will definitely be there again next week!”
Del. Kenneth R. Plum (D-36): ”Excellent job, John, Fran and volunteers. Well run. Very secure. I picked up items I had pre-order(ed) and paid for in advance in fewer than 10 minutes!”