Bay Area wildfires: Why you need to give your produce extra rinse, prepare for higher prices

Kate Larsen Image
ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Bay Area produce covered in ash from wildfires
Higher priced produce covered in ash, could be headed to a grocery store near you because of the fires burning in the Bay Area, and the PG&E power outages may be partially to blame.

HEALDSBURG, Calif. (KGO) -- Higher priced produce covered in ash, could be headed to a grocery store near you because of the fires burning in the Bay Area and throughout California.

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"A lot of the ash is mixed between trees and bushes, but also from people's homes," said Corey Manning, the owner of Tres Alamos Farm in Healdsburg. "You don't want to have any of those things on your fruit or vegetables."

The tomatoes, melons, corn, peppers, and pumpkins on Manning's farm are covered in ash.

"We would normally rinse everything off, but we definitely don't have the labor for that.... I would definitely wash everything that you buy."

Alexander Omran, whose family owns Le Beau Market in San Francisco, also recommends an extra rinse. "There could be potentially damaged product, so of course you want to wash it as best you can."

But, washing soot-coated fruits and veggies is a simpler problem to solve than another looming issue.

Le Beau Market says their produce prices haven't gone up yet. But, Omran says because of supply and demand issues created by the pandemic and fires, that could all change.

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"The prices could go up, potentially," said Omran. "Not just produce, but meat and the deli counter, it could be store wide."

Manning explained why the fires have created produce supply issues.

"PG&E cut the power last week, so we haven't been able to irrigate at all and then on top of that even they closed the area off.... So we haven't been able to get anyone in here to pick anything either."

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"Some of our crops have over-ripened, so we have to leave them in the field and those will just be considered a loss"

Tres Alamos grows produce for local food banks, which are already hurting because of COVID-created unemployment.

"It's really gonna hit hard on that," said Manning.

Add that insult on top of the fact that Manning lost his Santa Rosa home and farm in the 2017 Tubbs Fire. "It definitely reopens a lot of hurt and mixed feelings living in an area that's experienced so many fires like we have."

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