Following a pandemic-afflicted year, the Danville Farmers’ Market and vendors look to recover lost ground in the area.
After the market closed in mid-March 2020 following a wave of shutterings across the Dan River Region when COVID-19 outbreak intensified, the market reopened on May 9, 2020, with special guidelines in place.
The winter market began Jan. 2 and ended on March 29, where vendors saw a sharp decline in attendance.
Sharon Waddey, owner of Sha-Lee Accessories, started making masks for her family, but saw a business opportunity with the pandemic’s continuance and took her mask-making talents to the winter market. A lack of summer produce means low numbers in general, but with the pandemic still looming, the weekly event, housed at the Danville Community Market building, was more sparse than usual.
“Some markets were canceled, and that hurt a lot of other vendors,” Waddey said. “There were some holiday shows we missed because of the pandemic and some cancellations.”
During the winter market’s course, two vaccination clinics were established, one of which catered to 860 Danville residents. Due to the quick turn-around and limited building space, both weekends of the market were canceled to accommodate.
“It was a really unique vaccination season,” said Kenny Porzio, program coordinator Danville Farmers’ Market.
In addition to the clinics, Porzio also had to cancel two weekends due to winter storms that left some of the city without power.
Rusty East, co-owner of White Oak Mountain Honey, understands the importance of vaccinations and clinics, but saw fellow farmers struggle to turn a profit in the market. If clinics and the market operated at the same time, no one could cater to social distancing, which could mean further market cancellations.
“For the summer market, I wouldn’t be surprised if some vendors were turned away because we don’t have any room in,” East said.
There were also “half as many” vendors in the winter market because some vendors didn’t know where or if they could set up a stand.
For Porzio, the goal is a return to normalcy, which will guarantee more room and availability for vendors to showcase their homegrown products. At least 40 vendors have showed interest in the upcoming summer market, scheduled to start May 1.
With the excitement of the upcoming market comes a sense of caution and healthy skepticism.
“This whole pandemic’s been like the line from Forrest Gump: ‘Life’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get,” said Waddey.