(opinions) farmers market

The Blacksburg Farmers Market, April 10, 2019

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to ponder whether we’ll ever return to what we once considered normalcy. As a collective, we’ve been grieving publicly about the demise of our lives as we knew them. The first stage was shock and denial; pundits on both ends of the political spectrum initially doubted the virus was any worse than the flu. Then anger descended as many stir-crazed individuals protested lockdown regulations by gathering on the steps of Capitol Hill in a maskless congregation. It’s hard to tell what stage we’re in now, but with students getting a better idea of what life will look like in the fall, one could say we’ve already struggled through the depression stage and finally reached acceptance.

Being in the acceptance stage means we have thought long and hard about the hand we’ve been dealt and are working to exist again within the parameters of our new reality. Who’s to say whether we’ll have another concert on the Drillfield or what homecoming will look like, but one staple of the Blacksburg experience is sure to welcome new students in the fall with their fresh fruits and veggies: the Blacksburg Farmers Market.

There’s a beautiful relationship that exists between the students of Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg Farmers Market. Hokies cooking their own meals for the first time can be taught the benefits of introducing organic produce to their diets by our local farmers. Conversely, those curious students help uphold the local economy and support vendors’ livelihoods.

Strong relationships like these are bound to stand the test of time, even through a global pandemic. In the initial response to contain COVID-19, the farmers market started slashing its hours, prepackaging produce and restricting the occupancy of the market to 10 people at a time. Since then the market has been able to scale back many of its protective measures, welcoming back Wednesday markets, extending its hours back to normal and serving more customers.

But this is in no way to say things are back to the way they were before this crisis. The Blacksburg Farmers Market has made some big changes in the way of adapting to a post-COVID-19 world. For starters, the market has transitioned to a “producers only” market, strengthening the connection consumers have to their food’s source. Additionally, the farmers market is strongly encouraging shoppers to use its newly established pre-order and pickup service as an alternative to attending the market in person.

Though students won’t be able to wade through the rows of produce stands and mingle with members of the community as carefree as they once did, the farmers market seems like it is gearing up to serve a new class of students at Tech and teach them the benefits of eating and shopping locally.

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