Clean Hands and Open Arms; Culver City Farmer’s Market Re-Opens

In the midst of a national disaster, a small sigh of relief.

As the City of Los Angeles decided to shut down open air markets in response to growing and persistent concerns over the spread of COVID-19, Culver City’s Farmers Market reopened on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, a brief reprieve during a confusing and even lonely time.

“There’s a comforting sense of normalcy coming to the Farmers Market,” Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells said.

Mid-March, as news reports about contagion picked up and the nation grappled with widening closures and restrictions on daily life, the City decided to temporarily close the Farmers Market until they could figure out a safe solution.

“I had to demonstrate that we had a solid plan,” said Cynthia Ojeda, manager of the weekly market, of reopening. Customers came and went through one marked entrance and exit and were required to wash their hands or wear gloves upon entering the market. Members of the police and fire departments were also present to quell any misgivings about reopening a public space.

Some, like the mayor, think an open market is safer than even the grocery store. Across the street at Trader Joe’s, the line stretched around the block as people maintained at least six feet of distance. The crowds at the Farmer’s Market were never more than 75 at a time, offering plenty of room and peace of mind while shopping local.

“It really is a model of something that’s working,” Sahli-Wells said. “Being out in the air gives me a little more comfort.”

Still, some are wary of the virus’ spread.

“Some vendors didn’t come out,” Ojeda said, citing one farmer and two food vendors who decided not to sell. Overall, she said, residents have been supportive, and even though crowds were thin, thanks to bulk buying, vendors reported that sales were in line with what they average on normal days. For some critics on social media, however, “they don’t understand what we’re doing,” she said.

Ava Zaccor, a Culver City resident, was walking down the street with a friend when she spotted the market. Wanting to support local business at a time when some are struggling to make ends meet, they decided to do some shopping. “I’m trying to maintain my sanity,” she said.

Elizabeth Moss

Photo shows ‘social distance;’ line to get into the Farmer’s Market

Photo credit – Judith Martin-Straw

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