Local farmers losing business due to Thomas Fire

Profits from farmers markets down due to fire

Local farmers losing business due to...

SOLVANG, Calif. - Fresh fruits and vegetables filled the stands at the Solvang Farmers Market on Wednesday.

The weekly event was held as scheduled despite the Thomas Fire burning only a few miles south.

A day earlier, the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market was canceled due to the continued severe air quality warnings.

For local farmers, the fire has caused tremendous difficulties since it broke out 10 days ago.

"We have smoke and ash all over the place," said Ebby's Organic Farm owner Lorena Iniguez.

The Goleta-based farm has had to endure several problems related to the fire.

"We are trying to do our best, but economically, environmentally and we have some concerns about our customers," said Iniguez.

Fire-related problems are affecting all growers who participate in Santa Barbara County markets.

"Last week was very slow and this week, as you see. It's like a ghost town," said Peacock Farms vendor Andy Pechmann. "Sales are down and it just affects profits for the owners."

Since the Thomas Fire ignited on Dec. 4, several area markets have been held. Iniguez said business was particlary poor at the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market held last Saturday.

"Probably we sold less than 40 percent of our regular markets," Iniguez said.

Another issue is the continued warm weather, which is causing crops to need more irrigation.

"We need to water our plants, but we need to be conscious that water is a very precious resource for the firefighters," said Iniguez.

Further complicating matters for growers, falling ash is causing major problems at farms like Ebby's, who grow crops such as lettuce.

"They have the leaves inside and the same heart and it's very difficult because the ash goes in and you can't do anything about it," said Iniguez.

She adds that some produce is too ash-filled to save, which is then left to waste.

Lost crops is only adding to an already difficult situation.

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