Farmers market still bustling, lively despite new COVID-19 guidelines

Owner of Blue Ridge Honey Greg Mitchell has seen sales go up as the local farmers market has remained open throughout the state-wide business closures on Tuesday April 21, 2020 in Downtown Santa Barbara, Calif.

Jun Starkey, Editor-in-Chief

Despite the outbreak and rapid spread of COVID-19 and the recent shelter-in-place order, the Santa Barbara Farmers Market continues to operate with only a slight disruption in the usual business. 

“It was slow in March, but the paper saying we’re open has helped things pick up,” said vendor Juliana Bertelsen. “People must be stir crazy.” 

The market was back in full swing Tuesday, with musicians playing and vendors serving long lines of people, each standing six feet apart. 

The market has responded to the pandemic by adopting rules issued by the county Public Health Department, specifically created to minimize contact between customers, vendors and uncovered food. The new rules prohibit food sampling, require gloves and masks for all vendors and enforce strict social distancing. 

“It’s frustrating when people touch things or lean over the food without a mask,” Bertelsen said. “But everyone who shops here has been very respectful for the most part.”

Bertelsen recently returned to Santa Barbara from Minnesota after losing her job as a sports massage therapist.

She also came back to take care of her parents, both in their 80s, and make use of the avocado trees growing on their property. 

“It was convenient so they wouldn’t go to waste,” she said. 

Throughout the market, there are now several hand washing stations, and hand sanitizer is available at each booth. Although some people have found issues with the new precautions, most vendors simply comply to continue to sell their products.

“We’ve been selling a lot more than we usually do,” said Gregg Mitchell, co-owner of Blue Ridge Honey. 

Mitchell said he has seen an increase in customers since the shelter-in-place, also assuming people are eager to get out of the house. 

“Half of my friends take this seriously, and the other half think it’s all fake,” he said. “But I’m just gonna keep wearing a mask.”