Harvest Market Opens … Again

Photos by Mary O’KEEFE
Justin and Hugh Lingar with Benzler Farms were happy to be back on the avenue.


The Montrose Harvest Market opened again after a several-week absence due to the Safer-at-Home order and COVID-19 guidelines.

Organizers were at the market early Sunday morning marking the ground in front of the vendor booths with directional indicators and markings showing places where shoppers could stand at a distance of six feet apart, providing adequate space for social distancing.

The vendors interviewed by CVW were all happy to be back and to see their customers. Not all vendors were pleased, however; organizers doubled the rental rate for about five of the vendors who sold pre-made food. Their rate was raised to $50, which brings them equal to charges others vendors were being charged.

“We had to make an adjustment because we [now] have to rent hand-washing stations and have a [hand sanitizer station] due to COVID-19,” said Gigi Garcia, member of the Harvest Market Committee and Montrose Shopping Park Association board.

Steve Pierce marks the ground in front of vendor booths.

The market is running at a reduced vendor population. It only allows farmers and pre-made food to be sold. Pre-COVID-19 the market included pony rides, petting zoos, games and face painting for children, clothing and gift vendors. In an abundance of caution, the market organizers have not brought back all the market vendors; however, fewer vendors equal fewer funds to help support the market.

It is the timing of the increase that has some vendors, like Regan Boone of Crescenta Valley’s Highway Highlands Farm, upset. She along with other vendors have suffered financially when the market closed and they were not been able to sell their items.

“I looked at the past [agendas] of MSPA and they didn’t mention a raise,” she said.

She pointed out that, according to the records on March 5, MSPA had a closed session meeting to discuss MSPA vendor usage that ended with “no changes to current vendor structure were recommended.”

Garcia said MSPA did talk about Harvest Market in recent meetings; however, those minutes have not been made available online.

“The reasoning for [the rate hike] was not to put any hardship on our vendors,” Garcia added.

She said that market organizers were surprised to hear there were any issues because when they spoke to the vendors no one, including Boone, had anything negative to say.

Boone said she didn’t feel she was given a chance to comment and was surprised by the increase.

Garcia said the Harvest Market committee would work with any vendor who had an issue with the increase and in fact organizers have a close relationship with many of the vendors, even knowing their families, births and birthdays.

At the market on Sunday the vendors just seemed to be happy they were back.

“Not being here takes away from our livelihood,” said Hugh Lingar with Benzler Farms.

He and his brother Justin travel from Sanger in Fresno County to Montrose. Lingar said he was happy to be at the market and really happy to see the customers again.

“We love seeing all the people coming down here and interacting,” he said.

Phillip Davila, owner of Trinity Teas, echoed those comments.

“Feels great to be back,” he said. He added the customers who he spoke to just wanted to come and shop and support the local economy.

“And to get fresh food,” he added.

Harvest Market organizers were keeping a watchful eye on everything making sure that all vendors wore masks as well as making certain people were observing social distance, and most patrons seemed to be respectful and wore masks and kept at least six feet apart.

There were a couple of complaints that organizers heard from some of the shoppers and they immediately followed up on those.

“The market managers [work really hard] to make sure everything is done according to COVID-19 rules for opening the market,” Davila said. “There is plenty of space between everybody and everyone feels comfortable.”

The Harvest Market will be open again on Sunday and, as Glendale and LA County moves forward with reopening guidelines, more vendors will be added to the market.