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Farmer’s market both hurt & helped by money crisis

on October 19, 2008


At first it looked like a great Sunday for Samuel Lunes. Just after 9am, when the Temescal Farmers Market opened, customers lined up by the dozen before his produce stand. For hours, working with his son and his son’s friend, Lunes was busy selling organic fruits and vegetables. But by the end of the day, Lunes said the sales could have been better.

“They used to buy a lot,” he said of his customers. Their numbers haven’t diminished over the two years the market has been in existence, Lunes said, but their buying habits have changed.

“It’s the same people,” he said. “But now, they think about what they have to buy. They spend less money.”

Vendor Sam Lunes says the customers keep coming but that they're spending less
Vendor Sam Lunes says the customers keep coming but that they’re spending less

As many businesses across the country begin to struggle with the financial meltdown, vendors at Temescal Farmers Market are still trying to gauge its long-term impact on their sales. While some merchants say their sales are slowing down, others say they are doing fine—for now, at least.

Vendors are saying that sea food and meat sales are still healthy. “Our sales are going up,” said Ernesto Rico, a 22 year-old fish vendor from Sebastopol. He said  he has even raised prices of tuna and black cod recently by one dollar a pound.

Among vendors who have seen a downturn in business, not all are experiencing this in farmer’s markets outside of Oakland. Jaime Duenes, a merchant from San Lorenzo who sells dried dates, six dollars a box, said that in Danville, “I have no problems. People always buy.” But he’s worried that people in Oakland are cutting down on unnecessary expenses. “Dates are like a luxury,” he said.

Some feel reasons for optimism amidst so much bad news. Adam Vermeire of Prather Ranch Fish, based in San Francisco, figures that “people are eating out less and cooking more at home,” which is a situation, he added, that boosts their sales.

While he hasn’t seen any negative impacts on their businesses yet, Vermeire worries that may change in six months or so, as the economic downturn continues. “It is taking a little while to catch up,” he said.||||||||||||||

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