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Central, South Coast growers using Southern California farmers markets to try to stay profitable

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KCLU
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Many of Southern California's farmers markets, like this one in Studio City, are peppered with growers from the Central and South Coasts. This booth features Santa Barbara County-based Sunrise Organic Farms.

A trip to farmer's markets in the Los Angeles area shows growers from places like Nipomo, Lompoc, Santa Barbara and Moorpark.

It’s a busy day at a farmers market. As you look around, you see booths selling produce from places like Nipomo, Lompoc, Santa Maria and Goleta.

But, this farmer’s market isn’t in Carpinteria, or Santa Barbara. It's in Studio City. Many Central and South Coast farmers have been bringing their produce to LA farmer’s markets for years. But, with rising costs the profit margin of selling retail instead of wholesale makes them much more important.

Andrew Gibson is one of the owners of Santa Barbara County based Sunrise Organic Farm.

"There's good days and bad days, and we do this to make sure we can pay all the bills," said Gibson. "Diesel's up 300%, seeds up 40%, our water's going up, fertilizer is going up... all of those things have gone up around 30% to 40% over the last year. We're coming down here (to LA) to get that extra consumer margin."

His business partner, Jesus Salas, is busy with a steady stream of customers at this popular Studio City Farmer’s market.

"It's a little tough right now... it's hard to make money," said Salas. "It's a little more profitable, but it's a lot more work."

Just a few stalls down at the Studio City Farmer’s Market is a booth from LOV Farms, in Santa Maria. Is it worth it to leave at midnight, and to spend seven or eight hours in a truck round tip to sell in LA?

"Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't," said Luis Guevarra.

He's worked in farming for more than four decades. He says he started as a farmworker in the fields before he was able to become a grower.

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KCLU
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A Santa Maria farm's booth at the Studio City Farmer's Market.

With rising costs, and lots of competition, Guevarra said that farmers markets like this aren’t guaranteed money makers. There’s also all the time, and travel costs involved. But, the Santa Barbara County man says today is shaping up to be a good day.

"One way or another, we survive," said Guevarra.

He said there's more competition in Los Angeles, but the larger crowds mean more potential sales than local farmers markets.

And whether it’s Santa Monica, Pasadena, or Hollywood, you can find the farmers markets peppered with growers from the Central and South Coasts.

Some say bringing their produce to these markets was once the icing on the cake so to speak for them financially. But, with big spikes in costs, they’ve now become a part of staying profitable.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.