Valley residents were already living in a virtual world able to shop for clothes, shoes and home décor online.

Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Ralph Northam’s order that Farmers Markets must operate curbside or take-out only, the Waynesboro and North Augusta Farmers Markets will begin to accept online orders in May.

“For our Farmers Markets, we’ve decided to move to an online market,” said Megan Marshall, Waynesboro Farmers Market’s Market Manager and director of food access for Project GROWS.

Farmers Market customers will be able to order at projectgrows.luluslocalfood.com, select a pickup location and date and pay online.

“Farmers Markets aren’t allowed to have a standing shop option just to limit contact during the pandemic,” Marshall, who lives in Harrisonburg, said.

Vendors will prepare orders and have them prepackage and ready for customer pickup at both Farmers Markets.

On Saturdays, customers will drive up to Waynesboro Farmers Market at Constitution Park to pick up their orders, and North Augusta Farmers Market customers will get their orders on Wednesdays at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona.

“Right now, the community needs access to fresh, healthy food more than ever,” Marshall said.

And local farmers are in the middle of their season, so they will need somewhere to sell their produce.

Marshall said James Madison University students are helping both markets get vendors set up to sell produce online, and the hope is to have both markets open in May.

SNAP benefits, WIC and senior vouches will be accepted online as they would be in-person at both markets.

Marshall said Project GROWS is excited about taking the markets online, and farmers are ready to provide fresh, local produce.

“I think it will be a really positive thing during a negative time,” Marshall said.

She said she encourages the community to support local Farmers Markets.

Project GROWS’s annual spring plant sale will also be held online.

For more information, visit projectgrows.org.

On Saturday, Staunton Farmers Market will open as a modified market, according to a press release from the city.

Customers will have the option to pick up pre-ordered items between 8 and 10 a.m. on Saturdays.

“This modified market will look far different than what you’re used to,” said Farmers Market Manager Tom Womack. “But it’s your opportunity to continue to get the local foods you’ve grown to love.”

The press release stated that the market created this modified market plan with the Staunton City Manager’s Office “to operate within the parameters of the Governor’s Executive Order. The order, as interpreted by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, expressly permits limited operation of farmers markets.”

Anyone showing symptoms of, has been exposed to or suspects that they have been exposed to COVID-19 is discouraged from participating in the market. The press release said the request applies to both producers and consumers.

Customers will place orders with producers, then park in the designated area on the west side of the Wharf parking lot in downtown Staunton. Upon arrival, customers are asked to call the producer’s cell phone number.

The producer will deliver the pre-ordered and prepackaged items to the customer’s vehicle while the customer maintains 6-feet of social distancing.

“The customer is encouraged to open their trunk from within the vehicle to permit delivery to the trunk by the producer,” the press release said.

Producers will disinfect their hands before and after each customer transaction, and will also wear face covering when interacting with customers.

For customers on foot or bicycle, the press release said that producers will meet them at the Statler Tribute Monument and also practice 6-feet social distancing.

The press release stated that the market’s limited capabilities at this time will limit the number of regular producers at the Staunton Farmers Market.

For more information, visit stauntonfarmers market.org.

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