Farmers' Market manager Sam Edelman | Credit: Paul Wellman

One Santa Barbara tradition isn’t going anywhere due to COVID-19: the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Markets, which will continue to operate at their various locations six days a week, including the large downtown markets on State Street each Tuesday and at the Cota Street parking lot every Saturday.

“This is really an essential community resource with regard to food access and security, as well as health and nutrition,” said the market’s executive director Sam Edelman, who has been tracking official health advice and consulting with market operators statewide to see what they are doing. “Even in areas like San Francisco, where the majority of food/beverage-related businesses have been forced to close, their farmers’ markets remain open.”

Of course, changes to everyday business have been implemented. Tuesday’s market, for instance, included four hand-washing stations in the middle of each half block plus many signs for food safety protocol. There were nine hand-washing stations on Saturday — one at each entrance and one at the beginning of each row.

The guidelines issued by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department on Tuesday specifically addressed these markets. The specific directives for farmers include: no food sampling, no coming to work if sick, wearing gloves when possible, having one person deal with transactions and others to deal with produce, not eating in booths, and making sure customers only touch what they intend to purchase. 

“We will likely be taking additional measures as the situation evolves,” said Edelman. He also noted that many farmers who run direct produce delivery programs, known as CSAs, are seeing a spike in customer interest. 

“We currently do not have an infrastructure set up for this at the moment and are primarily focused on doing all that we can for the public to continue to have direct access to our farmers,” said Edelman. “However, we will surely have contingency plan discussions over the weeks to come.”


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