The Midtown Farmers Market in Sacramento was bustling Saturday, but there were no samples as vendors are taking precautions due to COVID-19.
California farmers markets are considered essential and don’t have to close even after the statewide order that all residents stay in their homes except for essential activities.
“When it was declared a pandemic it got really slow and then last week people rushed to buy our stuff and we sold out of carrots,” said Manuel Rodriguez with Rodriguez Brothers Ranch based in Santa Clara County. “People were like I got to have veggies.”
For shoppers like Chelsea Elliott, having fresh produce is important as we all embrace life with more cooking at home.
“I bought onions, carrots and beets and I’m going to make a bunch of salads and soups all at home,” she said.
Organizers are requiring social distancing as much as possible and workers are using gloves, offering hand sanitizer and pre-bagging produce for quick service.
“We normally sell our mushrooms in trays so you can see everything, but now we are just taking extra precautions,” said Kathy Kokkos with Dragon Gourmet Mushrooms.
She’s thankful this market is still operating because a lot of the farm's business is on hold.
“Our farm has been affected because a lot of restaurants have closed,” she said. “That’s a huge part of our market.”
The leaders of the market are asking visitors to wash hands upon arrival, to minimize close contact, and to allow vendors to help select goods. They're asking people who are sick to stay home.
“We have eliminated anything that is non-essential, but are working to maintain food access so fresh products are making it to market,” said Emily Blaine Michaels, executive director of the Midtown Association. “We want to make sure people can get produce, bread, fresh meats, eggs and dairy.”
But not all markets are open across California or the nation, says Ben Feldman with the Farmers Market Coalition. The group represents markets nationally and says California is a microcosm of what’s taking place across the country. They also offer tips for markets to stay open while keeping people safe.
Feldman says some markets in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and along the coast have closed or are partially open. He recommends checking your local market or farms social media before making a trip.
“It’s definitely a challenging situation and our perspective is that farmers markets are absolutely essential,” he said.
Because of limited access many farmers are getting creative. Courtney Smith, with Shared Abundance Organic Farm in Auburn, says they're selling more of their home delivery boxes that include kiwis, herbs and veggies.
“It’s more than doubled definitely for our CSA numbers and even at the Sunday market we saw a huge increase in sales,” Smith said.
These farmers say they’re the original social distancers and open markets are keeping them afloat as other revenue streams dry up.
CapRadio provides a trusted source of news because of you. As a nonprofit organization, donations from people like you sustain the journalism that allows us to discover stories that are important to our audience. If you believe in what we do and support our mission, please donate today.