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Santa Barbara’s Farmers Market will remain open but will be adopting new hygienic protocols in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
According to Noey Turk, president of the market, handwashing stations will be installed on every row of the market and all vendors will be required to provide handwashing gel for their employees. There will be no more handing out of free samples, and customers will no longer be allowed to pick up the produce to give it a squeeze.
“If you touch it, you’re committed,” said Turk. “You bought it.”
She said customers would be given flyers apprising them of the new rules. In addition, she said, vendors will need to have one person handling food and another person to handle money to minimize the risk of infection.
In the governor’s new edict banning social gatherings of 250 people or more, the sale of fresh produce was specifically not included.
“I think we’re at least as safe as grocery store,” said Turk. “Actually, I would say we’re considerably safer.”
Turk said the vendors had not been surveyed but added, “If you’re farmer, it’s your livelihood. You don’t have the luxury of staying home. You don’t have another source of income. You have payroll to meet; you have rent to pay. Farmers are the last people to give up.”
In a lighter vein, Turk riffed on the rush on toilet paper experienced at supermarkets in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We don’t have toilet paper, but we do have a toilet paper plant,” she said. It has broad fuzzy leaves. “There’s a plant for everybody.”
Turk said that a typical farmers market will draw between 3,000 and 5,000 people on any given Saturday. “That’s over four hours,” she noted, adding that at peak hours, there are maybe 1,000 people present.