Friday, June 21, 2024

From Farm to Market: Toano Open Air Market

TOANO — Saturday mornings at Toano Open Air Market start on the quaint farm owned by Maureen Anderson and her husband, Arnthor Magnusson.

The Farm

Arnthor and Maureen met five years ago.

Arnthor, who is from Iceland, was still a deep sea fisherman, working between Norway and Russia but, had come to visit his parents who live in Williamsburg. A mutual friend introduced them.

The couple stayed in touch online when Arnthor returned to his ship. As fate would have it, during March of 2020, Arnthor returned to Virginia for what was supposed to be a two-week holiday. Then COVID-19 happened.

“And, the rest is history, as they say,” chuckled Maureen.

Now they live on land they call ‘The Home Farm’ where they raise goats, chickens and a host of other animals. They have bee hives and a small lake where geese gather.

This sanctuary is also where Tasha’s Own Goat’s Milk Soap and Magnusson’s Jams and Jellies are made. It is where honey and eggs are harvested.

“Arnthor is really the backbone of this operation,” said Maureen. “It was my daughter who first started making jams and jellies. But she was going back to college and couldn’t keep making them, so Arnthor took that over. Now, he makes jam and jelly all the time.”

“He also brings a fresh perspective to what I have been doing for 30 years,” explained Maureen. “I think what is interesting is how we (as a couple) came together and how we kept the business going with his refreshed ideas and line of products.”

Sitting on her porch overlooking the farm, Maureen explains her philosophy is inspired by a Henry David Thoreau quote — If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

So Maureen, with Arnthor’s help, looked for ways to do what inspires her while meeting people’s needs.

The Market

Maureen saw a need during the pandemic for a place to sell fresh, locally made and raised products on the Northern end of James City County.

“I never planned to be a Farmers Market manager and I think I have taken some heat from starting a ‘competition’ market, but really, it’s not,” stated Maureen.

Now, in its fifth year, Toano Open Air Market is flourishing.

The market is open from the first Saturday in March until Christmas, from 9 a.m. until noon (unless it is storming) at 7891 Richmond Road. Jack Ray, who owns the property, allows Maureen to use the field.

Live music, produce, crafts and local vendors of all trades can be found at the market, along with Maureen, who greets visitors with a smile and seems to know everyone present.

“We want to build a community feeling where this is a destination,” explained Maureen, who in addition to running the market sells her soaps, Arnthor’s jams, honey and farm-raised eggs.

It’s obvious most of the vendors have a personal connection to Maureen — one of her children operates the popular Virginia Bread Company, another, she calls her best friend — and as she walks through the field, Maureen is greeted by each seller and most of the customers.

Tommy Leggett, who sells fresh oysters, has been a market staple since the beginning.

“When COVID hit and Maureen started this little community market, it just reinforced some decisions for me. I just like the atmosphere here, the people and being in the country, it’s just more laid back,” said Leggett.

A second-year vendor, Jola Berdoz sells flowers she has grown as a hobby, “We don’t have a farm, we just grow in our yard. It just makes me happy!”

Brock Reggi sells ‘Greens and Things,’ “I was here (at the market) helping all the time so, I thought I’d give it a try.” Now, he sells microgreens, sprouts and mushrooms on Saturdays.

Gloria Parker, who calls herself a market staple, makes the drive up to Toano from Virginia Beach just to pick up Tasha’s Own Goat’s Milk Soap.

“I always look forward to coming. I make the drive at least once a month. This market is great!” said Parker with a huge grin.

The Toano Open Air Market’s community continues to grow, but it is Maureen who is the heart and soul of the market, and as people of all ages — and several dogs — shop and enjoy the space, Maureen can be seen checking on everyone like an attentive hostess.

“Thanks for coming out!” Maureen calls towards a group who is seen leaving with bags full of goodies, “Bye guys!”

Find out more information on Toano Open Air Market’s Facebook page.

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