The gray skies looming over Turlock on Saturday didn’t dampen the festive mood at the Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market, as they opened their seventh season and the first at their new home at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds.
Hundreds of people strolled through the Ag Pavilion at the fairgrounds and selected items from the more than 50 vendors at the market. Buyers had plenty of produce on hand, from the strawberries and citrus brought in by J and J Ramos Farms in Hughson, to the mushrooms grown by Ledesma Farms in Gustine, and all kinds of other fruits and vegetables.
“Whenever you do a new thing you never know how it will go off exactly,” said TCFM Board President Elizabeth Claes. “But this is what I hoped we would see. People are so excited about it. The feeling they get when they walk through the Ag Pavilion is optimism and that this is the beginning of healing and that’s a wonderful thing for Turlock.”
Besides the fresh produce, TCFM had vendors selling meat, salmon, cheeses, baked goods, local honey, tri-tip sandwiches, fresh pies, tamales, jams, nuts, organic dog treats, lavender-infused lotions, handmade jewelry, home décor, flowers and much more.
Some of the vendors present for open day included: Carnivore’s BBQ, Hummus Heaven, Athena’s Gift Olive Oil, RK Kettlecorn, Legacy Toffee, Soaps by Hailey, Jars of Delicious, and Resendiz Farms, which also brought out their kiddie train for rides around the fairgrounds.
Opening the Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market at the fairgrounds was a decision made by the board of the non-profit organization after an appeal to stay in downtown Turlock failed to blossom. A controversy arose in Turlock when Golden State Farmers Market Association put in a request for a street closure permit for the same time, days and location used by the Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market. The Turlock City Council opted to have both organizations submit Request for Proposals for the operation of the downtown market, which led to some contentious city council meetings and a divide among many community members. Ultimately the City Council in a 3-2 vote awarded a three-year contract to the for-profit market run by Peter Cipponeri after TCFM decided to withdraw their request. Cipponeri’s market, which has been renamed the Turlock Downtown Farmers Market, also opened Saturday on Main Street.
The controversy was certainly a mitigating factor for some of the shoppers and vendors at the fairgrounds, many of whom cited loyalty for Turlock’s “original market.”
“We’ve actually been with this market since it started and it’s like we are a big family and we didn’t want to just leave it," said Catherine Keiper of Cottage Garden Blueberries out of Waterford. “So we decided to stay with them because we’ve always had such nice management and we didn’t know what to expect with the other guy. We had an allegiance here.”
That sort of loyalty was appreciated by shopper Carrie Dugovic, who said she had no plans on visiting the other farmers market.
“I love the farmers market and I believe in the Turlock Certified Farmers Market,” Dugovic said. “I think it was really underhanded what the Turlock Downtown Farmers Market did by applying for the street closure. I am on a mission to tell everybody that this is the market that they need to go to. This is the non-profit, grassroots movement and these people love our community.”
The connection to the local farmers is what brought Evelyn Vasquez and her family out to the market from their home in Ceres.
“We wanted to support the community,” Vasquez said. “We don’t live in Turlock, but we don’t have a market where we live. I had mixed feelings about the market moving because I don’t like change, but I like it. They have a lot more vendors and parking is easier, which is a big plus. For us it mainly boils down to supporting our local farmers and knowing that the produce is all coming from this area.”
The new venue was warmly received by visitors and vendors alike, especially the covered portions and the large fans.
“Come summer time those fans will be a blessing towards keeping everybody cool,” Keiper said. “It’s big and spacious and you don’t have to worry about cars coming in.”
“I think it’s a better location,” said Rachel Gonzalez of Edith’s Bakery. “There’s more parking and more space for people to walk around and more food vendors as well.”
The receptive response from vendors and shoppers had Claes beaming with pride as she watched more and more visitors come through the entrance.
“People are seeing people they haven’t seen in years,” Claes said. “There is a sense that this is what Turlock really is all about, which is all the people gathering together. I think that the gathering together is going to be a part of this experience and will grow each week. We have the potential for great, new things.”