Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market Reopens June 21
Lean times and uncertainty are a way of life for small family farmers. But, nothing could have prepared Phil Rhodes for COVID-19. His small family farm in Visalia, California, depends on local farmers’ markets as its primary source of business. “Country Rhodes Family Farm” has been a regular at the Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market for the past four years. When the market shut down on March 15 in response to the pandemic, and others across the state followed suit, Rhodes was lost.
“When the virus hit, I held up on planting a lot of stuff. I figured, why bother? Who knew how long this would last? Some things, such as sweet corn, I decided not to plant at all because of the unknown. I’m a little delayed now on some of my other crops. When my tomatoes started to come in recently and I didn’t have a market, I started to panic,” Rhodes told the Courier.
Fortunately, those tomatoes should have eager buyers once again this weekend. After a three-month dormancy, the Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market reopens on June 21. It will take place every Sunday thereafter, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. while following L.A. County safety protocols.
For opening day, Rhodes will have on hand not only tomatoes (in Cherry, Early Girl and Heirloom varieties) but donut peaches, Armenian and lemon cucumbers, onions, summer squash plus some early peppers and figs.
“Farmers markets in the L.A. area in general is always good. I got hooked up with a lot of chefs here. But once the virus hit, it fizzled out because restaurants closed,” he noted.
Although the Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market isn’t the largest venue Rhodes works with, it provides the most loyal clientele.
“Season after season, my customers in Beverly Hills would switch over to whatever I was bringing in. It was a very stable business that I could count on,” said Rhodes.
Going forward, he’s hoping shoppers will be interested in grapes, which were “always big at this market.” The fall will bring Asian pears and persimmons. Will it also bring a continued upswing in business?
“Beverly Hills was closed longer than other markets in the state. I do wonder if, after such a long time, will it have the volume it needs to rebuild?” said Rhodes.
He remains optimistic. “Some of the markets I work with in the Bay Area have actually doubled in size since the pandemic hit. Even with social distancing and lots of strict rules, people still want to come out,” Rhodes said.
In Beverly Hills, building the market back up to pre-pandemic levels may be a gradual process.
The City’s rules for reopening include crowd control, face covering requirements and social distancing at all times. Early shopping hours will be available to seniors and high-risk individuals from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. For now, only farmers and prepackaged food vendors will be allowed at the market. No food trucks, or open, prepared food items will be available. Also gone will be live music, the petting zoo, seating areas or shopping carts.
The City is asking patrons to help maintain a safe and healthy community by staying home if they are experiencing any symptoms of illness. They also recommend that only one family member per household visit the market, due to the limited capacity. And no pets are allowed; only service animals may accompany their owner.
Despite the restrictions, Rhodes is grateful to the City for making lemonade out of lemons. “I’m very excited about getting back. I’m looking forward to getting through this year and into the next. I can’t wait to see some of our regulars again,” he said.
For more information on the Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market, visit beverlyhills.org/farmersmarket or call 310-285-6830.