Before there were iPhones with news and weather apps, there was my dad who was always clicking between The Weather Channel, The History Channel and Fox News. On days he knew I was at market, he’d pay particularly close attention to the weather. Occasionally I would get a telephone call warning me of a fast-moving storm in my direction, him going so far as to tell me once to pack up and get out of there NOW. Other times when the sky would turn black, I’d call him for an update to see which way the storm was tracking.
Now there are multiple weather reporting outlets who rely on experienced forecasters, super computers and satellite images that can be called up on demand, but predicting the weather is still a crap shoot. Any farmer will tell you that with no uncertainty. Trust me, we are all glued to our weather apps right now, especially farmers in Virginia.
Customers have already begun asking, “Will there be markets this weekend?” The answer: we don’t know…yet.
We know there won’t be markets the weekend after Thanksgiving and there won’t be a Bethesda market on October 14th due to the Bethesda Row Fine Arts Festival, but to say with any certainty in advance about weather-related cancellations is about as predictable as the weather itself.
“We intend to stay open rain or shine,” says Mitch Berliner, founder of Central Farm Markets.
However, due to the agreement with Montgomery County for the Bethesda location, the market must close if the county closes the school for weekend activities due to a weather event like a major snow storm or a direct hit from a hurricane. Similarly, the other locations (Pike, Westfield and Mosaic) will cancel markets only when weather conditions such as ice becomes dangerous to patrons and vendors.
Ice won’t be an issue this weekend, but the remnants of Florence, depending on where it makes landfall, may result in conditions – high winds and rain – that necessitate closures. Sure, vendors go without tents on breezy days, but tent weights only work so well before either the frame collapses from the sustained stress or a strong gust whips the entire structure into the air (weights included) and plunks it down on shoppers, on vehicles, on other vendors’ tents. Over the years I’ve witnessed several tent wrecks due to high winds. In an instant there were injured people, broken windshields, damaged products and destroyed tents.
If there is rain coupled with extremely high winds, that’s when it makes sense to pull the plug. According to the Capital Weather Gang, “based on the best available computer model forecasts, the storm’s extreme rainfall is likely to remain south of Washington.” That does not mean the region will not experience the effects of Florence as their forecast added, “There is still some chance that the region will endure disruptive rain and wind from the storm.”
Some vendors travel over two hours to and from Central Farm Markets. That means that the producers traveling from the south are much more likely to be impacted by Hurricane Florence. Westmoreland Produce, located in Virginia between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers has chosen to err on the side of caution and will not be attending markets this weekend. Other vendors located closer to the estimated path of the hurricane are weighing their options as well. It’s not that vendors want to skip a market due to inclement weather. After all, we must work in all types of conditions to get the food to our customers.
Experience has taught us that picking and loading during dangerous storms is an unwise choice, that even though we are loaded and rolling flooded roads, downed trees and power lines can thwart our efforts. With supersaturated ground from all the recent rains, a blast of high winds can quickly bring down trees and poles. When state governors and the District mayor all declare states of emergency ahead of a major storm, we give pause and consider our trek into the city.
Other times we take a chance on an ugly forecast, standing for hours in the first bone-chilling rain of the season such as last week and are rewarded with patrons showing up in full support and colorful rain gear.
Yes, this still doesn’t answer the question will there be markets this weekend.
“We will wait until Friday IF we are to call off the markets, but at this point we intend to go forward,” says Mitch Berliner.
Here’s how you can stay on top of how Hurricane Florence will impact all the Central Farm Markets.
- Sign up for Central Farm Markets’ eBlast email newsletter. In addition to the regular weekly email, in the event of closures special emails will be sent.
- Follow Central Farm Markets on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each week a list of vendors attending markets is posted along with news of special events and cancellations.
- Look on the Central Farm Markets main website.
- Follow your favorite vendors on social media. Many of us will alert our followers as soon as we are made aware of anything that will impact our customers.