Bay Area farmers' market vendors struggle to recover profits after setbacks from epic winter storms

ByCornell Barnard KGO logo
Monday, April 3, 2023
Bay Area farmers' market vendors struggle after epic winter storms
A stormy winter season in the Bay Area has caused some farmers' market vendors to lose money due to damaged crops and canceled events.

SAN FRANCISCO (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.

"We're happy to see the sun," said farmer Leonardo Chombo.

Chombo says he's never been more thankful for good weather. It's brought customers back to the Sunday "Ft. Mason Farmers' Market" in San Francisco at a time when his sales are down by 50%.

"For us, it's been very hard," Chombo said.

RELATED: CA farmworkers struggle to recover from January's devastating storms

California farmworkers are facing a slow recovery process from the damage caused by the devastating storms.

Chombo works for JSM Organics, a family farm in Monterey County, which suffered flooding from epic rains last month. Part of their strawberry crop was wiped out.

"Each year we plant 15 acres. We lost a third of it. It's been hard," he said.

"At first it was 'Thank god. We needed this.' Now it needs to be over," said grower Phil Rhodes.

Rhodes says the drought-busting winter season has delayed his planting in Tulare County.

RELATED: CA needs more attention from federal government amid severe storm damage, Lt. Gov. says

"I've been doing this for 30 years. Usually by now we have stuff in the ground, spring vegetables," Rhodes said.

The toughest part: stormy weather has forced many vendors to cancel farmers' market dates and lose profits.

"We did the South Berkeley market two weeks ago. I'm still traumatized. It wasn't just the rain. The wind was moving the tents, literally moving tents," said Jeanelle Pittman from Lifegood Farms.

The Ft. Mason Farmers' Market is open year-round, rain or shine and this year it's been mostly rain. That's created a logistical nightmare for vendors and operators.

RELATED: 'This is a catastrophe': Farmworkers bear the brunt of crop flooding, desperate for federal aid

While consumer impacts of the crop flooding may be lighter, farmworkers are now desperately in need of jobs, housing, and assistance.

"This year, we've really tested that rain or shine policy," said Warren Cox from the California Farmers' Market Association.

Cox says the California Farmers' Market Association manages a dozen markets across the Bay Area. He says it's working with farmers. About 10 vendors were missing for the day.

"Most of our vendors are small vendors. All their money comes direct from farm sales. We've been trying to work with farmers any way we can," Cox said.

Customers say, now more than ever, farmers' market vendors need their support.

"This is a great place to show up on Sunday, pick up flowers or hummus. They become part of the community," said Baje Thiara from San Francisco.

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