It has been 17 years since George Russell Weller drove his car into a crowd of people on Arizona Avenue, killing ten and injuring dozens. That shocking incident prompted significant safety upgrades at the Santa Monica Farmers Markets. Now, coronavirus has demanded more drastic changes.
Before the pandemic, the Wednesday market served a staggering 10,000 customers a day. Due to L.A. County Health Department guidelines, that number is down by roughly 85 percent, according to Market Manager Jackie Rivera-Krouse.
To ensure proper social distancing, shoppers are allowed in at a trickle via guarded entrances. There is usually a wait, and once inside anyone spotted socializing is urged to get on with their business.
“It’s more subdued,” observed Gisela Friedman, who was waiting in line with Elizabeth Durst. The two friends still come to the market every Wednesday to buy their fresh produce.
While the clusters of chatty chefs are no more and samples are a distant memory, the health measures have been a success.
“This is very safe…definitely safer than the supermarket,” said Friedman. “They’re very creative the way they set up the lines.”
Rivera-Krouse said that to her knowledge not a single staffer, farmer, or employee has contracted the virus.
“The city is really safe about how they have employees check in…farmers, too.”
About two months ago, a cadre of volunteers joined the effort.
“They are the friendly faces you’ll see at our entrance and exit areas as well as at our information booth,” said Rivera-Krouse.
Masked like everyone else, the friendliness of their faces is not easily discernible, but the summer bounty surrounding them is a sure-fire mood lifter.
“There’s so much to buy right now,” said Durst, advancing a few feet toward the mounds of peaches, avocados, and tomatoes she had come for. “I love the farmers market.”