The Turlock Downtown Farmers Market is moving from its current E. Main Street location to Central Park starting Aug. 6, a change prompted by complaints from downtown businesses about the loss in traffic caused by the weekly street closure.
Three representatives of the affected downtown businesses — Candace Gonsalves of Farm House, Hillary Smith of LaMo and Leroy Walker of Bistro 234 — released the following statements about the downtown market and its change in location:
"We expressed our concern to the City and they worked hand-in- hand with us to facilitate a resolution with (Golden State Farmers Market Association). Peter (Cipponeri, owner of GSFMA and operator of the Turlock Downtown Farmers Market) has graciously offered to move his market. We are appreciative to the City and GSFMA, and, in all the efforts of good will. In the spirit of moving forward, we are optimistic and hopeful for getting our community back downtown and in our businesses. We hope our community will once again join us downtown and be receptive to the olive branches being extended by all."
It's not only the farmers market that is of concern to the E. Main Street businesses. According to the business owners, the 300 block of E. Main Street is closed at least 30 times a year for different events. The City has agreed to now limit the number of events which involve street closures in the downtown area.
"Over the last few weeks, staff and I held three meetings and several one-on-one conversations with downtown business owners. They expressed a specific concern regarding events that require street closures, including community dinners, bike races, and markets. This input is valid and City Hall will take steps over the next few months to guarantee such reoccurring events are limited in scope. While our annual parades and a few one-time events will continue, we will be decreasing the number of downtown events that impede traffic flow or limit parking spaces," said Mayor Gary Soiseth.
"The new location of the Turlock Downtown Farmers Market in Central Park is a step in the right direction to limit any impacts of special events to the brick-and-mortar businesses of downtown Turlock," he continued.
This is the first year that Cipponeri and his for-profit GSFMA have operated the downtown farmers market. Cipponeri was selected in March by the Turlock City Council to run the downtown farmers market, following a new request for proposals process implemented by the City in December 2015. The non-profit Turlock Certified Farmers Market had operated the downtown farmers market for the previous six years before the change in process.
Instead of completing the RFP process, TCFM decided to move its market to the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. A number of longtime farmers market vendors moved with TCFM to the fairgrounds and downtown businesses, like LaMo, also opened booths at the TCFM location.
When GSFMA submitted a proposal to operate the downtown farmers market, one of Cipponeri's goals was to expand the number and variety of vendors offered at the weekly market. This is a goal that the market has struggled with over the past three months.
When the Turlock Downtown Farmers Market opened on May 7, the market boasted 25 vendors that included local businesses like Lisa's Cookie Jar and Oak Barrel Ice and Creamery, as well as vendors from across Central California offering items such as fresh strawberries and asparagus.
Cipponeri told the Journal in early June that the market was "going great" and he expected to have 40 vendors by the end of June. At the July 16 downtown market, however, there were only eight vendors.
“It’s okay, it’s kind of slow," said Makala Navarro of Top Line Milk Company about the attendance at the downtown farmers market. "We’ll probably finish out this season and then see how it looks for us after this farmers market season is over and see if it’s worth it for us to come back."
“It’s been slow but steady…the other one’s going gang-buster and we’re going really slow,” said Greg Raynes of Oak Barrel Ice & Creamery.
The Turlock Downtown Farmers Market will operate at Central Park, located on the corner of E. Main Street and S. Golden State Boulevard, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through the month of August. It is unclear at this time if the market will continue through the end of its stated season in October.
"Turlock is fortunate to have two market options and I encourage all residents to enjoy their Saturday mornings at the fairgrounds and in downtown Turlock," said Mayor Soiseth.