Forced to fly from farmers

Molly Shore

Miguel no longer gets treats from the vendors at the Farmers’ Market.

That’s because Miguel’s owner, Jef Norton, was asked to remove the

4-year-old macaw from the premises by market manager Carolyn Hill,


who approached Norton on April 5 after noticing the brightly colored

bird perched on his shoulder.

“I told him that, unfortunately, the health department does not

allow us to have birds on the property,” said Hill, referring to a


California Uniform Retail Food Facilities code.

According to that code, no live animal, bird or fowl shall be kept

in a food facility.

But the way Norton sees it, the weekly outdoor venue cannot be

considered a retail food establishment. After all, he said, pigeons

routinely strut and fly in the vicinity of the Farmers’ Market.

“It used to be Miguel came with me to the Farmers’ Market once a

month, and he had a great time,” Norton said. “It’s no longer fun for


me to go ... because I can’t bring my bird with me.”

Norton added that vendors routinely gave Miguel bits of fruits and

vegetables, and enjoyed seeing him on the premises.

Hill, though, disputes that claim. She said vendors are nervous

about having a bird on the premises because of the potential for the

Exotic Newcastle’s Disease. Vendors could carry the disease -- a

virus that causes pneumonia and encephalomyelitis in birds -- back to

their farms through dust on their tires, she said.


The virus has a potentially devastating effect on commercial

poultry operations. An outbreak of the disease occurred in Southern

California as recently as fall 2002.

“If I were [Norton],” Hill said, “I would not want my bird out in

public with this Newcastle’s disease going on.”

The 21-year-old outdoor market is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every

Saturday on a city-owned parking lot bordered by Palm Avenue, Orange

Grove Avenue and 3rd Street. The city and the Redevelopment Agency

jointly lease the lot to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, which

sponsors the market.

Because it is licensed by the county Health Department, Hill said

the market must adhere to state codes and post signs to keep out

animals. Hill admitted that signs at the market have not always been


Terrance Powell, coordinator of the farmers’ market program for

the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, said it isn’t

always convenient for markets to post signs.

The signs provided by the county are 9 inches by 6 inches,

suitable for placement in store windows, Powell said. He added that

open-air markets require larger signs at each entrance, making it the

responsibility of market managers to have the signs created and


But if a market hasn’t had any problems with animals on the

premises, Powell said that the county won’t insist that signs be


Markets that do not enforce the law, however, can be cited by the

county, have their licenses suspended and be forced to close, Powell