The Farmers Market Goes Online
What happens when you develop a culture of innovation and a bias towards action? A lot of little things that contribute towards a movement—a change in mindset—a change in what’s possible. There’s a reason why “Being the Change” is the motto at JMU, and it could not be more relevant than during the challenges posed by COVID -19. At JMU X-Labs we challenge students and faculty from across campus to dive into some of the most challenging problems—where there is no “major,” and this is just one example of how that plays out in real life.
On March 28th, the Harrisonburg Farmers Market announced its closure due to social distancing restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For years, the market has been central to the culture of downtown Harrisonburg and has been known for its bustling activity and rich community engagement, so the closure was a huge blow to the local community as well as the farmers and other vendors.
After Farmers Market Manager Josie Showalter talked with Associate Professor Seán McCarthy from the School of Writing, Rhetoric & Technical Communication (WRTC), who just happens to be a key instructor for JMU X-Labs classes, she saw an opportunity to leverage local resources to provide an online ordering and drive-thru pickup service that could benefit the market far beyond the pandemic. McCarthy and JMU X-Labs Lab Manager Aaron Kishbaugh took charge of logistical planning, working with city and state officials to implement best practices to safely and efficiently run the farmers market during the pandemic. Three of McCarthy’s graduate WRTC students, Dylan Crigger, Lacie Knight, and Laura Siegel, created an awareness campaign on social media, worked directly with vendors to get hundreds of their products online, and volunteered at the market every Saturday. In just two short weeks, the market went online and was a huge success, with 311 customers at the April 11th opening and a whopping 455 customers the following Saturday.