With extra protocols and precautions in effect, the Santa Barbara Farmers Market, located at the intersection of Cota and Santa Barbara streets in the Cota Commuter Lot, remained open to the public Saturday morning, much to the appreciation of local Santa Barbara natives.
“It definitely didn’t feel completely like a normal Saturday with regards to the situation but I think people were especially appreciative of us being there,” Sam Edelman, general manager of the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market said.
“There were definitely a lot of worries that the market could shut down at some point so I think just sort of reassurance for them that we were there was good. People were also very happy with the extra protocols.”
The extra precautions were added to try to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Some of the extra protocols included having nine portable hand-washing stations on hand, as well as having the actual farmers bag the items for the shoppers.
Local shopper Dominique Bittner appreciated the attention to detail with the new precautions.
“It was nice coming here and seeing all the precautions that the farmers were taking by wearing gloves and ensuring that they were the ones touching the produce and then giving it to other people. I thought it was really nice,” Ms. Bittner said.
She added that she heard a lot of people were shopping earlier but she was still able to find everything she needed to stock up on food for the week.
Kristin Hermanson with Golden State Papayas noted that while some people might have been annoyed with the longer than usual lines caused by vendors having to bag the items themselves, it was overall very beneficial.
“The hardest part was like long lines because of making sure that we’re keeping that cleanliness across the board but it was important to do,” Hermanson said.
Ms. Hermanson was at the market since opening and noted that “it was so busy this morning.
“Which is good, I am stoked to see. I think a lot of people took the advice of supporting your local businesses so that they can stay open… and we have a pretty strong community that likes to support local farmers and would much rather eat that food than regular grocery store foods so that was really beautiful to see.”
Ms. Hermanson also added that she sold better this Saturday then the past couple of weeks, but “nothing astronomical.”
Ben Press of the Solvang Pie Company also sold better on Saturday, saying that “we sold out pretty quickly, more quickly than normal.”
“A lot of people came in and bought more in quantity than they normally do, like four to five loaves so we did really good today,” Mr. Press said.
When asked if he was shocked at the number of people that came to the Farmers Market after such a crazy week with the news of the coronavirus, Mr. Press said: “I was a little bit more concerned about the rain than the virus.
“This is time where people are like afraid and so I’m happy to see everyone out here buying and having a good time.”
Mr. Edelman added that at the end of the day, all vendors were pretty happy how everything went.
“They were very satisfied with the day. There is still this mentality to stock up and so people who sold meat, for example, just about tripled their sales and the produce sales were really high because people really, I think, were anxious to get those fresh ingredients so overall, sales were much better than expected,” Mr. Edelman said.
Local shopper Steven Buchsbaum also had a simple answer when asked why he decided to come to the Farmers Market saying, “We can’t live in fear.
“We come here every Saturday and Tuesday and we buy our produce here. Everything was friendly, everything was normal today (as any other day).”
Mr. Edelman is also hopeful that the farmers market will continue to be able to operate.
“Obviously with the extra precautions and protocols in place both for our customers and our vendors, I think it’s really an important asset. And I honestly feel that it’s a much safer environment to go and purchase and then going into any store at this point just with these huge long lines,” Mr. Edelman said.
Ms. Bittner also added that one of the benefits of coming to the market was not being entrapped in a store.
“It was really amazing to be able to come out and buy some local produce. People are always going to need food, and I think that going into a grocery store where it’s more closed and confined and where people are more likely to be handling all of the produce themselves,” Ms. Bittner said.
“It was just nice to actually have people handling the produce for me and being outside in the fresh air, getting fresh food.”