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How Closing Farmers Markets Impacts Small Farmers

Sandra Newman of Forbidden Fruit Orchards in Lompoc, Santa Barbara county. (Photo: Lori Eanes)
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Last night, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that farmers markets across the city of L.A. were too crowded and too dangerous. So he temporarily closed them until they can come up with plans for social distancing.

While it might be inconvenient for shoppers, it's smaller farms that are likely the hardest hit.

Sandra Newman of Forbidden Fruit Orchards in Lompoc (Santa Barbara County), said that nearly all of her sales come from the markets, and the money she makes over the next few months, is crucial for keeping her business afloat the rest of the year.

That's because in the coming weeks, she and a group of laborers will be harvesting a big flush of blueberries. They'll have about a week to go from bush to shopper before their goods are too old to sell.

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“If you’re farming small, it’s definitely because you have passion. It’s definitely not for the money," she said. "I’ve invested just about everything my accountant told me I could invest in it.”

Farming isn't cheap. She's got employees to pay and tractors to fill with diesel.

If need be, she thinks she could go the wholesale route — but she estimates her already small profits would be halved.

Luckily for her, she’s got good enough relationships with her customers that many are seeking her out to buy direct. Though it's not enough to completely replace her income from farmers markets.

“For a couple of months we’re all going to be fine,” she said. “People still need to eat.”

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“If they’re thinking this is a year and a half, well, everybody is toast," she said.

The good news for her is that farmers market’s outside of L.A., like the ones in Santa Monica, are still open.