By PETE DELEA
Daily News-Record 4/13/20
For Curtis and Judith Yankey, the Harrisonburg Farmers Market has been their family’s lifeline for eight years.
The couple, who own North Mountain Produce, peddle produce grown on their 10-acre farm near Timberville.
From asparagus and collard greens to potatoes and onions, selling produce to market shoppers helps the Yankeys make a living.
But due to the COVID- 19 pandemic, sales came to a screeching halt two weeks ago as the farmers market closed to adhere to government restrictions limiting the number of people in one place. “It’s all me and my wife do,” Curtis Yankey said. “We fell back on our emergency fund.” On Saturday, the farmers market re-emerged with a drive- thru pickup service. He said the orders started to pile up Thursday and never stopped. “ I was amazed by the amount of orders,” he said. “We have such amazing customers that keep us going. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Josie Showalter, manager of the market, said she loved seeing the cars lined up in the Turner Pavilion parking lot to get produce, baked goods and other treats. “It’s fabulous,” Showalter said. “I’m very grateful to everyone involved. All the support has been amazing.”
She said many of the vendors adapted quickly and had items online for sale quickly. “They’ve put a lot of time into putting their items [online], even though they’d rather be out in the farm or baking,” she said. She said there have been some new customers who are likely trying to avoid going to the grocery store and a large group of faithful’s.
“We have some really dedicated customers,” Showalter said.
After the farmers market shut down two weeks ago, Showalter said she wasn’t sure when it would be up and running again.
But, she said, James Madison University stepped in to help implement the drive-thru market in just a few days.
Graduate students from Seán McCarthy’s “Critical Perspectives on Digital Cultures” class collaborated with market vendors to help them set up online stores and design social
media campaigns to let customers know the market remained in operation.
Meanwhile, JMU X-Labs lab manager Aaron Kishbaugh worked with local entrepreneur and JMU alumna Amanda Presgraves on the logistics of packaging orders and delivering them safely to customers.
Dylan Crigger, a 23-yearold student in McCarthy’s class, went a step further and pitched in to help load items in customers’ vehicles.
In a time when it can be difficult to know how to help battle the coronavirus, he said, helping out felt like the right thing to do for the community.
“It feels very meaningful,” the Harrisonburg resident said. “It feels helpful.”