Pandemic months more successful than last year at Lexington farmers market

Shoppers and vendors have been gathering in person downtown

Grace Mamon

September’s first chilly Wednesday morning did not deter shoppers from perusing the Lexington farmers market last week.

In spite, or perhaps because of the pandemic, the farmers market has been more successful than last year, said interim market manager Brian Ross.

“I think people are more comfortable shopping here than at Walmart,” he said.

Ross said he’s sure the 2020 sales havealready exceeded last year’s total. In the first week of August, the market had over $100,000 in sales. Total sales for last year were $125,000.

Most shoppers were masked as they milled around the McCrum’s Parking lot behind Southern Inn on Sept. 16.

The market takes place every Wednesday morning from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., year round. In the winter, Ross said, they move inside to Lexington Presbyterian church.

Ross said he worked with City Manager Jim Halasz to adhere to Gov. Northam’s guidelines when reopening toward the beginning of the summer. They also paid attention to advice from the Virginia Farmers Market Association.

“It wasn’t that difficult, just a little time consuming,” Ross said.

Ross has been a vendor at the market for two years, selling lavender products from his farm in Fairfield. He and his wife, Penny, make all the products at home.

“We do lotions, potions, candles,” Ross gestured at the products before him.

Lavender eye pillows, teas, shampoo and healing salves covered the fold out tables.

An example of the market’s variety, Ross is just one of many vendors who sells non-food items. But there’s plenty of that to go around, too.

“I love getting the fresh vegetables because the flavor is so much better, especially tomatoes,” said Aubrey Parker, who shopped with her son and daughter on Sept. 16.

Parker said her family is from Mississippi, where you can buy falafel mix at the grocery store. But the only place she can find it since moving to Lexington is Kelly’s Persian Food at the farmer’s market.

She was not hesitant to continue to shop during the pandemic, she said. Many other shoppers and vendors shared this sentiment.

“We’re outside,” Kelly Williams said simply.

Williams owns Painted Horse & Cattle Co., a calf-cow operation that produces all-natural, grass fed beef.

The company employs rotational grazing and other eco-friendly practices and has been a market vendor for four years. Shoppers can also find them at the Kerr’s Creek Saturday market on Route 60 West.

Williams said she has noticed a slowdown since the busy summer months, but it hasn’t been too drastic.

“I don’t know if local people are staying away because the schools are back,” she said.

Milicent Christy, who sells nut-free and mostly non-GMO cookies, also said business has slowed.

“I was hoping for better,” she said about university students in Lexington returning.

Christy is trying to get her business, Milicent’s Cookies, off the ground by vending at the farmer’s market. She said she researched the best places to sell to college kids on Instagram.

She said she attempted to start a different business around four years ago, and is trying again with nut-free cookies. Christy and her daughter both have a nut allergy, which inspired her to start baking nut-free.

“I’m giving it another shot,” she said.

Also selling baked goods is the Jar Family. Brooklyn Crandon, 9, offers customers homemade jar desserts, like cheesecake bites in a jar and banana pudding in a jar.

She stood with her brother, Egypt Walker, 7. Their two other siblings, London, 8, and India, 3, also help, he said.

Crandon said her favorite part of the farmers market is “meeting new people that helped grow the business.”

All vendors keep their income, except for 1% which goes back to the market account to advertise and keep things running, Ross said. He said he’s pleased with the amount of attention the market has gotten this year.

“It’s been well received by the public.”