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Longer hours, more vendors will improve farmers market, say students
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A group of California State University, Stanislaus students has big ideas on how to improve Turlock's Farmers Market.
Each year, teams of students in the CSU Stanislaus technical business writing class prepare white papers on topics of their choosing. This year, one group decided to ask a simple question: How could the Turlock Farmers Market grow in popularity?
The students delved into the issue, conducting surveys of consumers and researching the farmers market's history in hopes of drafting suggestions and recommendations to improve attendance. On Tuesday, the students presented their findings to the Turlock City Council.
The presentation started with the market's history discussing the successful Turlock Farmers Market of the 1990s. At that time, Thursday evening markets crowded downtown, before renovation forced the market to move and eventually close.
Since its 2010 reopening, the weekly farmers market, held Friday mornings, has continued to grow. But more growth could be possible by expanding hours, adding vendors, and building a stronger community students found.
"It appears that the focus has been targeted more on vendors' schedules and a handful of consumers who are able to attend," said student Ricardo Leon.
Currently, day-shift workers have trouble attending the morning markets, the students found. By adding longer afternoon hours, or additional evening markets, more consumers would attend, surveys showed.
"We can broaden the base of consumers if we can increase the hours we operate," said student Seth Aniston.
More vendors were also suggested, adding a wider variety of goods to draw more shoppers. Those shoppers would then visit multiple booths, increasing sales for all vendors.
Part of drawing more vendors could require revising the currently confusing application process, making it easier for vendors to participate, students suggested.
Entertainment was also a key, according to the students' surveys, making customers more likely to attend. Anything from live music to car shows would increase attendance, students said.
And shoppers also liked to be reminded of the produce's links to nearby soil, research showed.
"We found that the majority of the consumers believe it's important the community comes together, and consumers know the ingredients of the products," said student Gerardo Garnica.
Vendors could conduct tours of their farms, students said, strengthening those community bonds.
According to Lauren Camerata, Turlock Certified Farmers market manager, the students' research struck on many topics which are frequently discussed by market directors.
"It was a pleasure to have the students from Cal State come out and do some surveying for us and look at some of the ongoing issues we face," Camerata said.
Drawing new vendors and lengthening hours is easier said than done, Camerata noted. But all of the students' suggestions will be discussed as directors plan for next year, hopefully making the Turlock market even more appealing and attractive to the community.
"We appreciate their footwork and their presentation here this evening, and as we move forward into our upcoming fourth season we will be taking a look at these issues and any opportunity to grow the market," Camerata said.

On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council also:
• Approved the results of the Nov. 6 election.
• Heard a presentation on Turlock Together, a nonprofit which collects toys to gift to children in need.
According to Salvation Army Maj. Debi Shrum, more than 1,700 people registered for Turlock Together Christmas baskets this year. The Salvation Army expects to serve a Christmas meal to at least 700 hungry Turlockers.
• Heard an update on building activity.
Turlock processed 65 building permits in November, with 82 percent of those reviewed in five days. In addition, the city conducted 255 inspections.
• Was updated on the status of ongoing capital project construction.
Excavation is underway at the Turlock Wastewater Treatment Plant to install new headworks. Balcony repairs at City Hall were completed, and did not leak during the month's rains. Concrete has been poured for the new Golden State Boulevard median, with asphalt soon to come. A new sewer line is under construction at Pedretti Park.
Annual slurry seal work in north Turlock neighborhoods, which pay additional property tax assessments for road repairs, has been completed. Striping will follow, as soon as the weather is dry enough for the thermoplastic to properly seal.