On May 4, after over a year spent battling the COVID-19 pandemic, RVAg Executive Director Lisa Dearden had reason to hope that things might finally be returning to normal.
It was a bright, beautiful Tuesday afternoon and she and the vendors at the Goochland Farmers Market were thrilled to kick off the market season, particularly after the devastating toll the pandemic had taken on markets last year.
Sadly, fate — and Mother Nature — appeared to have other plans.
The market had been open for about an hour, Dearden said, when she got word that a storm was headed their way. Though she had already checked to make sure all tents were properly secured and weighted down, Dearden began urging vendors to pack it in.
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a wall of wind broadsided the market, lifting tents and sending them hurtling through the lot.
The violent gust, which Dearden estimates was around 65 mph, injured several people, including one vendor who suffered a broken leg, and destroyed thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. Dearden suffered a concussion after being struck in the head by a tent, and admitted Monday that she was still dealing with symptoms related to the injury.
“It was just a disaster,” Dearden said, noting that the Goochland Market, which is held every Tuesday from 4 – 6:30 p.m., is one that is particularly close to her heart. Although the market has struggled in recent years to find traction, it is also one she feels serves a critical need for residents who may be facing food insecurity.
“It’s just so important to me, and I don’t want to give up on it,” said Dearden, who also oversees farmers markets in Midlothian and Powhatan, as well as another Goochland-based market in Manakin-Sabot.
Finally, earlier this week, Dearden received a jolt of much-needed good news: after an initial GoFundMe campaign managed to raise around $3,000 to help replace tents and get vendors back on their feet, an anonymous donor gifted the remaining $7,000 that Dearden and her team were trying to raise.
Dearden grew emotional Monday as she discussed what the donation would mean for her and the rest of her team, employees she said have put forth a Herculean effort in recent weeks to make sure markets go on as planned.
They will now be able to not only replace what they lost, but also ensure that the market program will continue to thrive as it emerges from the pandemic.
Said Dearden, “it’s going to mean everything to us.”