Although Los Angeles farmers markets were ordered to close earlier this week, Santa Monica farmers markets will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic with enhanced safety measures, city of Santa Monica officials said.
This weekend, the downtown, Pico and Main Street markets will have additional staff to limit the number of people entering the market and ensure that people are maintaining a distance of six feet from each other within the market, said city of Santa Monica spokesperson Constance Farrell. Staff will sketch out six feet intervals to guide the line leading into the market and customers have been directed not to touch produce before buying it.
“It’s a one in, one out policy,” Farrell said.
She said market organizers encourage each household to send just one person to the market and spend no more than 30 minutes inside the market.
“I know that’s hard because so many families are used to making their trip to the farmers market part of their weekend routine that they look forward to, but one person per household will really enable physical distancing,” she said. “Please make your trips as quick as possible so people can get the essential fresh food that they need.”
At the downtown Santa Monica market Wednesday morning, shoppers were asked to line up for entry to the market when it opened at 8 a.m. The initial line stretched about a block down 2nd Street due to social distancing requirements. After a rush of early shoppers in the first 30 minutes, the quantity of customers declined significantly with no line to enter the market at either of two entrances.
“The farmers will have plenty of inventory, so you don’t necessarily need to come when the market opens,” Farrell said. “Come a little later and you likely won’t experience a wait.”
She said the market is following new Centers for Disease Control guidelines that encourage people to wear homemade masks or face covering in public.
“They don’t replace the need for physical distancing and handwashing, but they are an additive measure that can be helpful in these types of settings,” she said.
Vendors at the Wednesday market said business was down significantly from recent weeks.
Luis Jaime of JF Organic Farm said he has seen a steady decline in business over the past couple of weeks but business Wednesday was the worst it’s been since the coronavirus pandemic began. He said customers were likely staying away because they have heard Los Angeles markets are closed.
He said the stall supports many families, from the farm owners to truck drivers to field workers.
“There’s not enough people and they’re not coming as much,” he said. “People are afraid with the social distancing, but I think we should just let them in. Everybody thinks we are all closed, but we’re going to be here every week.”
Lori Heal of Two Peas in a Pod farm, whose family farm has been selling directly to consumers for 36 years, said she has also seen a drop in customers this week.
“It’s the die-hards that are out now,” she said. “And it’s all about the relationships. The community provides us with so much and it’s really touching to me when customers are asking how we’re doing.”
She said her family fielded emails and phone calls from customers this week about the market because people were unsure who was open given the Los Angeles closures. However, she said her family plans to continue selling at the three markets they have access to for as long as they stay open.