How Loudoun's farms and markets are reacting to the coronavirus crisis

Farmers Markets will be open this weekend, but customers are being asked to order in advance if possible or use an on-site takeout menu. 

When Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered all non-essential businesses to close this week, the Loudoun Farmers Market cooperative discovered they were included in that category.

Leesburg Market manager Jennifer Brady said the news was difficult to hear, saying farms are providing “high-quality, nutrient-dense food.”

“It should be considered an essential service along with grocery stores,” said Brady, whose Leesburg Market is part of the Loudoun Valley Homegrown Markets Cooperative.

She said the markets serve as an important resource for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers, who are able to use those funds at farmers markets.

“Customers have access to healthy food through the SNAP program, and though a grant from Virginia Fresh and Inova, we match their spending dollars, and the additional budget goes to more fruits and vegetables,” Brady said.

Brady said the weekly markets – located in Leesburg, Cascades, Loudoun Station and Bluemont – are quickly making adjustments to follow the new regulations.

This week, they will shift to a curbside take-out model from 9 a.m. to noon, allowing customers to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently and still have farm-fresh produce, meats, poultry and more.

Brady recommends customers first try to place orders directly with farms ahead of time before market day.

Other options include using a “take out” menu at the market, which will be brought to people while they wait in their cars. In the near future, Brady plans to launch a one-stop shop online for all vendors from one website.

“This is an exciting opportunity for customers to find ways to connect with their farmers at their home farm stands and farms. People are realizing the local food system has all the basic needs – it's a silver lining. It's a really exciting moment for people to realize the importance of our local agricultural community," Brady said. 

Brady said the markets have weekly newsletters and posts on Facebook and Instagram so customers have up-to-date information. 

While the farmers markets are adjusting to a new business model, some farm stores in western Loudoun are experiencing a major increase in business.

How Loudoun's farms and markets are reacting to the coronavirus crisis

Spring House Farm Store is located on Hamilton Station Road in Hamilton.

Lovettsville's Spring House Farm, owned by Andrew Crush, has a satellite farm store on Hamilton Station Road in Hamilton and a micro market at Crooked Run Brewery in Sterling.

Spring House store manager Mary Torres said business has been going well over the past two weeks. She believes the increase in business is due to customers wanting to eat fresh, local food and avoid large grocery stores filled with people.

Spring House sells a variety of beef, poultry, lamb, chickens, eggs and honey, among other items. The market operates as a self-serve and self-checkout system. To make checkout easier, customers can order online and pick up or schedule delivery at one of their locations.

“People are making an effort to shop local, and it is appreciated,” Torres said.

Paige Critchley, owner of Paige's Pit Stop Farm Store and Produce on Route 9 in Waterford, said she has had an “unbelievable amount of traffic,” and business is up 80 percent over last year. She said she has barely slept for two weeks because she is constantly restocking products.

“We sold two steers, two pigs and a lamb all in one week. Business has been great,” she said.

The store also sells eggs, milk, cheese, fruit, bread and other baked goods.

Critchley has seen new customers from all over Loudoun County, mostly people who want to avoid stores and large numbers of people, she said.

Following the state's regulations, she keeps the store to seven people or less at a time, and she asks everyone to practice social distancing. She said she constantly sanitizes everything.

Critchley wants to help other local vendors who are looking for ways to sell their products and has invited them to set up at the shop so they are also able to benefit from the foot traffic.

“We had Wicked K-9 treats here today, and we have a tea lady coming tomorrow. We want to do what we can to help other small businesses,” she said.

How Loudoun's farms and markets are reacting to the coronavirus crisis

Paige's Pit Stop is located on Route 9 in Waterford.

(19) comments

More Cowbell

Again, curious why so many complaining about this but have no problem with Wegmans having close to 1000 customers/employees in a store at any given time during this so called social distancing? Those are the places where the virus starts and spreads quickly. And instead of 1 family member, the whole family of 5-10 show up. Very tired and frustrated by Gov Northam's inability to make a firm decisions and close everything for 2 weeks. This picking and choosing what we can do has most confused. You can go outside, go to parks(walk only) but can't go to beaches(I guess he's worried about the sand getting the virus). I give the Gov an F. He's failing big time. Now everything is in limbo until June 10. His next briefing he'll be shutting down everything until end of this year....

amerigirl

Cowbell, from what I heard from a Wegmans employee that location just wasn’t doing enough business and some of the employees have been transfer to other locations already. You may have been there at busy times. From what she told me that started quite a while back. You can drive to places; you don’t have to walk. But seriously, where is there to go? You still have to social distance. Beaches wow you really got that one good. Perhaps you missed what happened at spring break? It is not just Virginia but also Maryland, New Hampshire, N. and S. Carolina, Maine, New York, Florida and Connecticut (done by localities), and Georgia. You really think that it is a Northam thing? That is just the east coast, there are more on the gulf and west coast. And you know he'll be shutting down everything until end of this year how? Most of the country is in limbo, an we sure aren't going to ever refer to this time as the good old days,

How is this legal? How is this essential? From the pit stop website:

Captain Pell's Crabhouse will be here Friday from 12-6pm. Hog-it-Up BBQ will be here from 11am-6pm. Lots of great foods to choose from. Hunters Run Winery is also here selling Wine. We are your one stop shop - Wine, Food and Groceries all in one stop.

MaryA

I am the store manager at Spring House Farm Store.

As it has been mentioned in this article we are a self serve store. We are doing our absolute best to provide a safe environment to purchase the meats from animals we raise, as well as help out other local, very small businesses by carrying their products. We are not turning this pandemic into a party. We are in the store daily sanitizing while doing our best to provide a private shopping experience. It is what we are known for and we will continue operating that way.

We have set limits of no more than four customers inside our store at a time. We have hand sanitizer available for customers to use.

Today a customer arrived who has an immunocompromised spouse. I sanitized as many surfaces as i could before they entered and did not allow any other customers to enter until they were done shopping.

We are doing our absolute best to help out folks with all different kinds of situations. I have been pre bagging orders so that people can grab and go. We have drop points all over Loudon County for deliveries.

For folks in my town, I've bagged and brought deliveries for them to pick up in a cooler outside of my home so that their exposure is as minimal as possible.

Reading some of these comments is upsetting, so I wanted to reply and let people know we're trying our best to provide high quality foods in the safest environment we can

fbiwatchingyou

your prices are out of this world

MaryA

I'm not sure what that means.

Small business, high quality products with non junk ingredients cost more to make. I welcome you to compare ingredient lists.

Raising animals in fields and forests is incredibly more expensive than factory farming practices.

We don't carry standard grocery store fare so our prices are different. You get what you pay for.

MaryA

I

MaryA

I am the store manager at Spring House Farm Store. I would like to take a minute to explain our store.

We're a self serve store. We're not turning this situation into a party.

Today when a customer with a spouse with a compromised immune system came into our parking lot, i sanitized every surface i could in store and allowed no other customers to enter until that particular customer was done.

We are doing our absolute best to provide a safe, semi-private area to shop for the meats we raise, as well as provide a source for other small, local businesses to have their products available. Over the past two weeks I've gone out of my way to make sure customers are able to access food in a way that is comfortable and safe to them, even if it means bagging up their order and having them pick it up directly from our freezer, or from a cooler in my driveway.

MAGA Morons Are Governing America

I just drove by the pit stop store mentioned in this article. It is in clear violation of the Governor's order...today there are two food trucks added to the parking lot. It looks more like a tailgate waiting to happen than a farm market. How can this sort of operation be considered essential and the town farm markets are non-essential. Makes no sense at all.

amerigirl

It would be nice to have the fresh produce but how do you do social distancing in an area like that? Not a good idea.

LoudounClear

Having these stores in residential areas is a very bad idea during times like these. I live a mile or so from one of these stores and I'm not crazy about having magnets for visitors even that close. The closer neighbors must be quite unhappy about it. The Farmers Market in Leesburg would be much safer than letting these stores operate.

LetFreedomRing

This post makes no sense. Do you go within six feet of the store? If yes, then don’t. If not, then you’re being irrationally paranoid.

LoudounClear

You missed the point. Each person who goes to an overcrowded spot like these little farm markets that are actually stores in a predominately residential area...risks expanding the number of people who get infected. We're trying to control big box store activity and we ignore this?

We should, at this point, be seriously trying to limit the number of places where people spread the virus. If you don't understand how pandemic threats spread (and it's all about the math) there are videos on youtube that can explain it to you no matter your mathematical sophistication.

LetFreedomRing

What I don't understand is why your proximity to these locations is so worrisome to you. You said "I live a mile or so from one of these stores and I'm not crazy about having magnets for visitors even that close." You go even further by saying "The closer neighbors must be quite unhappy about it." If you're being a good little boy/girl and practicing social distancing guidelines, there is nothing to be paranoid about. Forgive me for not understanding the math behind how a store 1 mile away is violating your 6 foot safe zone if you're following the rules.

amerigirl

Six feet of the store? I thought six feet between people. If store personal feel that isn't happening they should have every right to remind people of the guidelines and if the people don't want to go with that then they should be turned away. You can say anyone is being irrationally paranoid but most people would consider that precautionary. I'm guessing you have not had the fear of exposure yet, right? The problem isn't just what is going on now but that having a business in a residential zone brings people who take up parking places, leave messes, cut across lawns etc. If it is zoned residential it should not have businesses, no matter the size.

marv

These "Open Air Markets" are safer than a large Box Store. I went to one (Box Store) Tues. and found that it had over 200 people in it.

Oldbroad

Very true! IF they and customers adhere. Box stores, like Target are NOT watching amount of customers. We are adults but they have a responsibility and you you can't cure STUPID! And there is a lot of that around here right now. It boggles my mind.

LoudounClear

Safer being what? I can get infected by 10 people instead of 50?

amerigirl

Well that is scary. They probably should have a limit to the number of customers allowed in to the square footage. We have barely started to go up and now would be the time to try and keep it to a minimum. Be safe out there!

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