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Downtown Farmers Market battles rain on opening day
farmers market downtown pic1
Shoppers at the Turlock Downtown Farmers' Market purchase strawberries from JSM Organics out of Monterey County during the market's opening day on Saturday. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

In an opening day that was marred by rainy weather, the new Turlock Downtown Farmers’ Market saw a small but eager crowd, complete with a live band, magician and of course, produce.

Turlock’s Main Street was closed down for two blocks and became home to about 25 vendors, all who sold goods ranging from homemade dog treats to honey-flavored wine. The event was originally slated to host an upwards of 45 vendors, but many cancelled because of the wet conditions said the market’s operator, Peter Cipponeri. Despite the rain, Cipponeri was pleased with the community turn out.

“It’s successful,” said Cipponeri. “Everyone’s happy and pleased with the variety.”

The for-profit Turlock Downtown Farmers’ Market opened on the same day as the non-profit Turlock Certified Farmers Market, which was previously held downtown. After a months-long battle over dueling market proposals, TCFM chose to relocate to the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds rather than come to a compromise with the newly-proposed market. 

The contentious Turlock City Council meetings and decision-making process caused a division in the Turlock community, leading many to choose one market or the other. Cipponeri was unsure if the community unrest contributed to the smaller crowd Saturday, but hoped that any ill feelings toward the new market would subside in the coming weeks.

“There are a lot of things that were said that just weren’t true,” said Cipponeri. “There have been a lot of misconceptions, but people who understand the story and what we’re doing are stoked. I feel like most people are upset now, but it will go away.”

Vendors at the market included the Portuguese Bakery of Turlock, Lisa’s Cookie Jar, three organic strawberry vendors, Teddy’s Mini Donuts of Livingston and Oak Barrel Ice and Creamery, just to name a few. According to Cipponeri, only six of the eventual 40 vendors are from out of town. But, other than Cipponeri Farms, the produce vendors that were present on Saturday hailed from coastal cities.

Patricia Moniz, a decorator and baker for Lisa’s Cookie Jar, explained that although they previously sold goods at the Turlock Certified Farmers' Market, the cookie shop would not be choosing between the two markets.

“We’re actually deciding to do both,” said Moniz. “We like that downtown is closer to our shop, but we do want to support both markets. We’re thinking of switching every week.”

Turlock resident and former TCFM committee member Pamela Sweeten also saw no need to pick a side, shopping at both markets.

“I think we need to have something downtown, so I’ll do both,” said Sweeten. “I’m buying a few things here and a few things there. I was sad to see the community divided over the issue.”

Olene Chesney of Turlock and Dynelle Gutierrez of Modesto tried out both markets as well, but found the Turlock Downtown Farmers’ Market more to their liking. The downtown market seemed cleaner and more organized, they said.

“Downtown is much more quaint,” said Chesney. “It’s nice to come down here and support the local businesses and see the togetherness of this market.”

The rain did dampen some shoppers' spirits, due to the lack of vendors and seemingly limited options when it came to groceries.

“I like to support local,” said Turlock resident Jacob Hiykel. “But, I feel like there are not a lot of vendors. Hopefully next week it picks up.”

TDFM Manager Mason Ankeney expects things to improve for the downtown market next week, with clear skies and warm weather in the forecast. 

“It’s only going to go up from here,” said Ankeney. “I urge the community to come down and check it out — just give it a try. We need one time to change your mind and you’ll be satisfied.”