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Central Valley markets draw community together, provide weekend activity

Morgan Parker

Koda Farms offers Organic white, brown, and mixed rices with garbanzo beans, Jan. 12.

California is the world’s fifth largest supplier of food, cotton fiber and other agricultural commodities, according to Dairy Moos. Fresh produce from around the Central Valley draws locals to farmers markets in Fresno, CA. Throughout the week, customers have the chance to purchase fresh produce and products in multiple markets around town.

Farmers markets around the area like in Old Town Clovis, The Vineyard, Kaiser Permanente, and Riverpark use their recognition to support local businesses. During the winter months, markets contain a variety of specialty products to sell to customers. Produce varies depending on the fruits and vegetables that are in season.

The Vineyard, a classic farmers market includes rows of vendors, from La Boulangerie to Bee Bob’s Honey to Koda Farms. Many booths sell fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables as well. There is an open seating area with Casa De Tamales and Fabiano’s Coffee trucks nearby to sample and relax in the chairs.

Under the open archway, Vineyard Farmers Market welcomes local vendors equipped with fresh ingredients. They open year round to customers on Wednesdays from 3- 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. – 12 p.m. Located on Blackstone and Shaw in Fresno, the market runs rain or shine.

Koda Farms vendor Lisa Koda sells her family’s Japanese rice to main California markets. Koda Farms is the oldest family-owned Japanese rice company in California and aims to provide people with organic and fresh products.

“We have been selling our organic rice and garbanzo beans for four weeks at Vineyard Farmers Market,” Koda said. “What’s nice about selling here is that there are many friendly people and it is very energetic. We grow locally around the San Joaquin Valley in Dos Palos. We grow with healthy soil and water in locations with perfect weather for the crops. We sell in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Torrence and San Francisco.”

Morgan Parker

Vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables in Old Town Clovis, Jan. 12.

Products are placed at the edge of tables for people passing by to taste. Samples of gourmet chocolate, fruit, and herbs appeal to customers and create advertisement.

Local shopper Karen Davies visits Vineyard Farmers Market twice a week. Living five minutes away, she enjoys the architecture and fresh produce.

“I moved to Fresno eleven years ago and I have been coming pretty regularly since then,” Davies said. “I think the archway with the climbing vines is really beautiful, they play nice music, it makes me happy to be here.

“I love local food,” Davies continued, “because it doesn’t have to be picked really early and driven many miles across the globe, sometimes they pick it the morning of the market, making it more nutritious.”

Fresno medical center Kaiser Permanente hosts a weekly farmers market promoting healthy eating in the community. With 28 vendors and farmers, Kaiser has extra vendors pop in sometimes. If the weather permits, Kaiser welcomes visitors on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. During summer months the market starts an hour earlier. Check out the website for more information. 

Market manager of Vineyard Farmers Market, Felix Muzquiz, has growers who have been with the market for the entire 39 years they have been open. Muzquiz shares how the market works for both vendors and customers.

“Farmers markets bring in the freshest fruit and vegetables with the smallest carbon footprint,” Muzquiz said. “Most is only handled by one or two people before purchase. In addition, customers are supporting the few small family farms still in existence in the Central Valley’s competitive ‘Go Big or Go Home’ Agricultural Industry. Typically 80 cents out of every dollar you spend at our farmers market stays in the local economy compared with every dollar spent at a chain store, only 14% of the revenue stays in the local community. The balance of that money flows to out-of-state suppliers, or back to the parent corporation.

Morgan Parker

Prices range on products from two dollars all the way up to 20 depending on the seller, Jan,12.

“The Vineyard is probably the most beautiful grocery store you could ever shop in,” Muzquiz continued. “We are a produce centric market; meaning our emphasis is on fresh locally grown produce first and foremost. We do not have a carnival atmosphere filled with unhealthy food choices. No kettle corn, donuts or snow cones that seem ubiquitous in most modern day farmers markets. Behind the booths of our market you will find the actual grower of the product, an immediate family member, or someone with an intrinsic knowledge of how the produce was grown.”

Old Town Clovis puts on a farmers market showcasing local produce from the Valley as well. Located on Pollasky Street between 5th and Bullard, the market goes from 9 – 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays. In summer, Old Town switches to Friday nights from 5:30 – 9 p.m. for produce and live music.

Carole Lester, executive director of the business organization of Old Town Clovis, shares how Old Town’s market has changed recently. Old Town has been running for 30 years as a certified market.

In the following tweet, Parker shares experience at Old Town Clovis farmers market, Jan. 12.

“We have about 30 certified growers plus around 100 other vendors between food, information booths and nonprofits,” Lester said. “The center reason we have a farmers market is to have fresh produce for people that is grown locally and is in season, not from other parts of the world. Overall, the effect of this market is mainly the community.

“People come down on Friday nights to see their friends, eat dinner, shop,” Lester continued. “Old Town is unique and vibrant with lot of places. Parking is a challenge, but it’s a pleasant small town feel. The farmers market is also a festival. Year around, every Saturday is just a farmers market and music, not a lot of other activities. Over the last four years we’ve extended it and mixed food vendors among other booths for more customers.”

In the following podcast, Morgan Parker interviews owner of Butternut Baking Company Goran Momcilovic about his products and where he sells them.

The winter version of Old Town’s market is in a smaller, different location compared to the summer. Rather than filling multiple blocks, it is set up down one section of the street. There is a mixed variety of vendors from grass fed beef to fresh, pressed juice. After getting coffee at Kuppa Joy or Two Cities, go out and visit the market which adds to the quaint atmosphere of Old Town Clovis.

Morgan Parker

Vineyard Farmers Market brings in crowds for local products on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Jan. 12.

Jeff Butts from Tasty Cows shares the advantages of their grass fed beef. The beef is sold to everyone and can be prescribed to help people with digestive issues.

“We sell beef and pork sausage out of Sanger, California,” Butts said. “Our cows are grass fed, grass finished, and we don’t do any antibiotics, growth hormones, or supplements. I grow my own hay without genetically modified organisms, it is a clean product. I have been selling in Old Town for six years. We sell in Visalia, Clovis, San Luis Obispo, and Atascadero.

“Selling like this is a good outlet to people who appreciate us,” Butts continued. “It is a good outlet for people who appreciate what we do because it’s not a cheat method or commercialized large volume business. It’s specific with certain targets in mind. We put years and years into getting to this point.”

After 18 years of business, the Riverpark Farmers Market provides produce and food trucks to Fresno Shoppers. Stop by in between 5 and 9 p.m. on Tuesdays after a day of shopping.

California, the breadbasket of the world’s produce, through farmers markets can make for an informative weekend activity. People learn how products are made and how they continue to benefit the community. Check out oldtownclovis.org for upcoming activities in the area.

For more articles, check out Living to see the dream, community remembers Martin Luther King Jr. and Lindsay Weimer shares success story of cancer battle, part 1.

Morgan Parker can be reached via email and via Twitter.

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