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Farmers Face Thanksgiving Losses as Some Bay Area Farmers Markets Close Due to Smoke

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The weekend before Thanksgiving is typically one of the biggest moneymakers all year for farmers who sell their produce at Bay Area farmers markets. But those farmers say they’re facing thousands of dollars in losses this week due to several smoke-related closures caused by the Camp Fire.

Farmers markets are run by associations that make the decision about whether or not to shut down. At least four markets in the Bay Area chose to shut down on Sunday, including the one in Walnut Creek where Lupe Valencia of Hamlow Ranches usually sells her uncle’s produce.

“That’s usually when we sell a lot of our winter crop, like the sweet potatoes and walnuts,” Valencia said. “People go crazy for them during this week for Thanksgiving.”

Fort Mason Farmers Market crowds were thinner due to unhealthy air conditions on Sunday November 18, 2018, but many still came out to buy produce for Thanksgiving week.

Hamlow Ranches was able to find a spot at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center market, which decided to stay open, but the crowd was smaller due to the bad air.

Organic artisan mushroom vendor Levi Tull of E&H Farm says a week of smaller crowds and closures are hitting farmers hard. He says he didn’t find out until Saturday morning that Oakland’s large Saturday market at Grand Lake where he normally sells his mushrooms was shutting down.

Levi Tull of E&H Farms sells organic artisanal mushrooms at the Fort Mason Farmers Market in San Francisco on Sunday. He says a week of smaller crowds and smoke-related closures has put a dent in a typically very busy pre-Thanksgiving season at the market.

“I was packing up the van at five in the morning about to leave and then had to change my shipment because we were going to somewhere else,” Tull said.

Despite saying that she’s facing thousands of dollars in losses after market closures both Friday and Saturday, Heather Griffith of vegetable vendor Happy Boy Farms says her mind is focused more on people than profit, especially the fieldworkers who continue to harvest in unhealthy conditions.

“I just hope they are getting masks and wearing them in areas where they’re really getting affected,” Griffith said.


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