Scaled-Down Laguna Beach Farmers’ Market Will Open Saturday

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Chef Ryan Adams selecting produce at Laguna’s farmers’ market. Photo by Jodi Tiongco.

The Laguna Beach Farmers’ Market will reopen on a smaller scale Saturday, following a weeks-long closure prompted by coronavirus concerns.

The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to open the market after hearing from its operator, the Orange County Farm Bureau, about how it has modified its footprint in Parking Lot 11 at Forest Avenue and Broadway Street to protect public health. Market operators have cut the number of vendors from about 40 down to 20.

Farm Bureau executive director Casey Anderson said customers must enter the market via the driveway on Forest Avenue, where they’ll be met by a security guard who will limit entry to observe social distancing standards. Customers will also be asked to walk in one direction through the market.

“We think this plan we’ve put together addresses the safety concerns,” Anderson said.

The council members agreed after listening to public comments.

“I think the mitigation measures that have been taken here in response to some of the earlier concerns are good ones and prudent ones so I’ll be supporting this,” Mayor Bob Whalen said.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said he would support reopening the market because he believes Orange County has done a particularly good job of keeping the rate of infection low compared to New York City because by preventing dense groups from gathering in public.

“When we know there are markets open in Newport Beach, Dana Point, Irvine Laguna Hills, and Laguna Niguel, I think the risk a density problem here is rather minimal,” Dicterow said.

Jeff Croy, agricultural commissioner of Orange County, said 21 farmers’ markets were still operating in Orange County cities as of Tuesday, including six markets that previously closed due to coronavirus fears. He added that a few farmers’ markets are selling out of products because the demand has never been higher.

“A farmers’ market is an essential business,” Croy said. “Some people prefer to shop in an open-air farmers’ market rather than an enclosed grocery store due to coronavirus concerns.”

Resident James Grossberg said that he supported reopening the Farmers’ Market because it appears to safer for people to conduct essential activities outside, including shopping for groceries.

“Particularly given the recent problems in the distribution chains for food, most recently meat, I think that is an even more compelling reason to keep the market open because it supports relatively local farmers at a time when we can’t be sure that sources of food coming a further distance will be reliably available,” Grossberg said.

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