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Food

Citing coronavirus concerns, several local farmers markets will temporarily close

Page oranges at the Torrance farmers market
Page oranges grown by Ken Lee in Orosi, at the Torrance farmers market.
(David Karp)

Several local farmers markets will suspend operations because of coronavirus concerns, including those in Beverly Hills, Culver City and the Saturday Torrance market.

Other markets such as Hollywood, Pasadena and Santa Monica plan to remain open for now, officials said.

Farmers, managers, restaurants and customers are all scrambling to deal with the quickly evolving situation.

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“City leadership decided yesterday to close the market starting this Sunday,” said Keith Sterling, a spokesman for the city of Beverly Hills. “We’d like to reopen in a few weeks, but as the situation continues to evolve our top priority is the safety and health of our community, including our volunteers and vendors.”

Susan Hutchinson, assistant manager of the Torrance farmers markets, said she learned Thursday afternoon that the city’s event would not be held on Saturday, but that no decision had been made about Tuesday’s market or future ones.

The L.A. City Hall Thursday farmers market, which she also manages, will be suspending operations, she said.

“Farmers are devastated, a lot of them were crying at my farmers market today, saying that they may not survive this,” she said.

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Alex Weiser, who grows potatoes, carrots and melons near Bakersfield, said he understood the need to protect public health, but hoped that the markets would reopen before long.

“We have crops growing, workers who need work, and customers who need to eat,” he said.

Cynthia Ojeda, manager of the Culver City farmers market, said the market would be closed for the next month to six weeks. While it’s closed she’s considering organizing an emergency community-supported agriculture program to connect farmers with customers. Meanwhile, her La Cienega market moved to a new location in its parking lot with controlled access so that market staff could get customers to apply hand sanitizer and put on gloves.

The Santa Monica farmers markets, which will remain open for now, are increasing hand-washing stations and eliminating prepared foods so that the markets “serve only as access points for produce,” said Jaclyn Rivera-Krouse, farmers market supervisor.

She’s hoping that her markets will continue to remain open, saying that “they provide a crucial public good, fresh food, while allowing social distancing in an open area.”

“If we’re unable to support farmers economically during this crisis,” she said, “it could have a lasting effect on farmers markets.”


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