Farm to table, via driver’s window: Drive-thru farmers’ market to open

warrenton farmers' market
Normally, the farmers market in historic Warrenton is a walking affair. In the midst of the coronavirus, the town will soon try a drive-thru farmers market. (Courtesy Warrenton Farmers Market)

On most weekends, a trip to the farmers market includes a leisurely stroll among vendors, sampling a just-picked-and-sliced apple or skewering a tiny piece of cheese with a toothpick, and going home with bags of fresh produce grown on local farms.

But when a popular farmers market opens April 18 in Fauquier County, Virginia, business that’s normally conducted in a large parking lot on Fifth Street, in historic Warrenton, will be adapted to a drive-thru market, including a series of three parking lots along Main Street.

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, with a concentration on social distancing, Warrenton Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer said they have configured a way for vendors to make their food available to shoppers, who will browse through the driver’s side window.

“We’ve lined up a series of cones and planter boxes, and the vendors will have a small display out front where they can talk to you about what they have to offer, and then they’ll be able to grab what they need from their supply vehicle and provide you a bag,” Schaeffer told WTOP.

The key to keeping things moving will be pre-ordering.

“We’ll have all of our vendors listed online — you can order in advance what you want to pick up and have it by your name.”

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No sampling, though, according to Schaeffer.

“That is one of the things that We are not going to allow the vendors to do there will be no tasting or touching of any of the produce. It’s just handled by the vendor who will be using bags and gloves and they will hand it to the person in their car.”

Schaeffer said the plan is to have a starting point and an ending point.

“So, if you went through the market, grabbing your pre-order and then decided there was just one more thing you saw that you wanted, you could get back in line and go through the market again.”

To prevent bottlenecks, Schaeffer said the set-up of the parking lots along Main Street allows enough space for a passing lane.

“We have a little over 20 feet that will allow for the vehicles to slowly pass around each other.”

Schaeffer acknowledges it’s impossible to know in advance how well the drive-thru market will work.

“Let’s give it a try,” she said. “I don’t think that it will work perfect the first time or we might not need to make some adaptations.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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