To the delight of many South Pasadena shoppers, the county health department agreed with them in deeming the weekly Farmers’ Market as an “essential function.”
Though heavily modified from its normal presentation, the Farmers’ Market went on as scheduled last week, after taking a week off in the chaos created by the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to alter daily life for virtually the entire globe.
“The good news with it is that I think we were ahead of it as much as we could be and we worked with police and firefighters in anticipation of any pushback,” said South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President Laurie Wheeler, who was referring to enforced social distancing guidelines.
Wheeler added that all outdoor certified farmers’ markets are considered essential services, akin to grocery outlets, provided that they comply with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Conditions. Changes made to accommodate the new reality include great separation between booths, signs posted throughout reminding patrons of the guidelines, and the temporary suspension of hot food or cooking booths from the event.
Around 80% of the 33 farmers were there last week, Wheeler said, adding that there are normally some absences. Vendors also continued to offer prepackaged food, such as bread, yogurt and peanut butter among other groceries for patrons, who likely preferred the more open space of the market to the long queues seen outside of grocery stores.
“The farmers and vendors were extremely grateful to have the market open,” Wheeler said. “These are all small, family businesses and this is their livelihood. Many customers also thanked us for being open.”
Vendors last week were often proactive, using caution tape to mark off areas or create their own queues to ensure customers maintained the 6-foot distance from each other, as mandated by health officials.
“While the market had significantly fewer shoppers than on a normal market evening, there were many people there and they were shopping,” Wheeler explained. “People want fresh produce — picked within 24 hours of the market — and other grocery items from an outdoor environment and want to purchase from local farmers — where the produce is handled by one or two people — rather than produce in a grocery store.”
Officials continue to monitor any changes that might come down the pipeline. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered the city’s farmers’ markets to close after several experienced hordes of shoppers, according to the Los Angeles Times. Garcetti plans to consider allowing those markets to reopen after submitting plans to enforce social distancing, which is seen as one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
County officials had yet to impose any countywide bans on farmers’ markets as of The Review’s press schedule on Wednesday. Wheeler added that the Chamber, which sponsors the market, is remaining in contact with county health officials in an attempt to stay in line with Garcetti’s requirements for L.A.’s markets.
The South Pasadena Farmers’ Market runs each Thursday from 4-8 p.m. at the intersection of El Centro Street and Meridian Avenue. For up-to-date information, visit southpasadenafarmersmarket.org.