Thomas Fire creates ripple effect for Central Coast farmers and - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Thomas Fire creates ripple effect for Central Coast farmers and local businesses

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As the Thomas Fire grew to one of California's largest-ever wildfires, evacuations expanded and the air quality worsened. That combination directly impacts the local agriculture industry on the Central Coast.

The more than 22 acres at Frecker Farms in Carpinteria was fortunately untouched last week while hillsides nearby burst into flames.

"We were woken up by firefighters and policemen and they got us out safely and we are so grateful for that," said Alex Frecker, owner of Frecker Farms.

Although the farm was saved, Frecker is now experiencing a setback in production and sales.

"You're dealing with ash, you're dealing with accessibility," Frecker said. "Your operation costs are still going, all your fixed costs and business still going, and then all of a sudden, you're not able to sell produce, which is hard."

Frecker has 10 employees who were also forced to evacuate for a few days, limiting farming production.

"In the last two weeks, we've done 50-60 percent of our normal sales for this time of year, which is already 50 percent lower than the better time of year," Frecker said.

The decline in farm production trickles down to local businesses. 

"Due to UCSB postponing their finals, Isla Vista businesses are seriously impacted because our business left a whole week early and our regular customers are part of the many people still evacuated. We're trying really hard to stay in service because our community-owned grocery store is serving as a resource during these kinds of times," said Melissa Cohen, general manager of Isla Vista Food Cooperative.

The Isla Vista Food Co-op has been desolate since the fire broke out and is creatively working to compensate for slower traffic including shortening business hours next week.

"We've dropped about 70 percent of our sales... 60-70 percent. Yesterday, it dropped even lower," Cohen said.

Updates on their store hours can be found on their facebook page.

Despite having a dramatic decline in sales, The Isla Vista Food Co-op is still giving back to the community. They have donated local produce to Thomas Fire evacuation centers as well as offering discounts to first-responders and evacuees. 

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