The double-whammy of flooded crops and low attendance has farmers' markets and their vendors struggling, in a phenomenon that may not be over, even though it’s April.
Early in the pandemic, farmers’ markets were one of those luckier sectors that were allowed to remain open as essential businesses during shelter-in-place. But this year’s three months of seemingly nonstop storms is turning into a bigger burden for farmers' markets than was COVID-19. The Chronicle reports that all the rain and storms have caused cancellations, no-shows, and a serious drop in business for farmers’ markets throughout the Bay Area.
The ongoing storm patterns battering the Bay Area have taken a toll on local farmers’ market vendors, who are seeing lower sales and choosing to skip market days due to lower foot traffic and related costs. https://t.co/xwtqelJcWA— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) March 31, 2023
A separate KGO report on weather woes at Bay Area farmers' markets speaks to Warren Cox of the California Farmers' Market Association, which runs the Fort Mason Center Farmers' Market and several others around the Bay Area, traditionally with a “rain or shine” policy. "This year, we've really tested that rain or shine policy," he told KGO.
A stormy winter season in the Bay Area has taken its toll on local farmers markets and the family-run farms that sell produce. Rain and wind have caused some vendors to lose money. https://t.co/UdEW7vx2Gv— ABC7 News (@abc7newsbayarea) April 3, 2023
And the storms haven’t just decimated attendance and customer numbers, the storms have wrecked many of the farms' crops themselves. "Each year we plant 15 acres” of strawberries, JSM Organics farmer Leonardo Chombo told KGO. “We lost a third of it. It's been hard."
The Chronicle has data from the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), which runs nine Bay Area farmers' markets, including those at Stonestown and Clement Street here in SF. Their data shows that “74% of its vendors have skipped at least one farmers’ market date as a result of storms, and 21% have experienced general storm-related property damage. Among farmers, 39% reported storm-related product losses in their fields.”
Yes, it is a relief after years of drought and wildfires have been ruining crops, but that relief has been short-lived. "At first it was 'Thank god. We needed this,'” Tulare County farmer Phil Rhodes told KGO. “Now it needs to be over."
But is it over? The ten-day forecast shows a possibility of more rain later this week, and the week is certainly going to get off to a windy start. The way this year has gone, it’s probably foolish to expect any sense of relief that the storms are over.
Image: Yoshiko D. via Yelp