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Farmers market combats fruit flies with fans

December 10, 2009 |  8:02 am

Fruitflies Since state authorities imposed a Mediterranean fruit fly quarantine that requires vendors at 17 farmers markets on the Westside to protect their fruit displays with insect-proof netting, growers have been grousing. However necessary, they say, netting is inconvenient to work with, unattractive and discouraging to sales; it’s also not completely effective, since customers have to lift it to reach the fruit, and they often don’t bother to set it back in place when they move on.

Jeff Rieger, who sells fruit at the Santa Monica Wednesday farmers market, has devised an ingenious alternative: fans that direct a flow of air over his display, keeping flies and other pests from landing. Rieger already had fans handy to use in drying persimmons at his farm in Penryn, in the foothills east of Sacramento, and was also familiar with their use from bringing his poodle to grooming parlors. He set up two red box fans this morning and was pleased when a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector came by and approved this technique, as long as he keeps netting handy in case the power goes out. “This is a major thing for me,” he said. “I don’t want to have to screw around with these nets.”

This method may not work for all vendors, depending on their access to electricity and how their tables are arranged, but it does seem to offer a way for some to ditch the unsightly netting, and get with the flow.

-- David Karp

Photo of Jeff Rieger and Laurence Hauben. Credit:  David Karp / For The Times