Saturday marked a truly special homecoming for the Turlock Certified Farmers Market, as local produce, meats, cheese and craft vendors set up their tents along Main Street for the first time in four years to kick off its 10th season.
“I think you can clearly see we’re pretty packed,” market manager Derek Griffin said, gesturing to the scores of Turlock residents and visitors alike gathered for the market’s return. “Everyone’s so happy that we’re back here.”
The market returned to its downtown roots last weekend after setting up shop at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds since 2016. The move came after a city-splitting debate surrounding who would run the downtown market when both TCFM and Golden State Farmers Market Association applied for competing street closure requests, ultimately causing TCFM to withdraw its request and make the move elsewhere.
The return to Main Street has been a long time coming for farmers market board members, vendors and supporters alike, and the excitement about once again having a market downtown was felt on Saturday morning as crowds made their way from booth to booth.
“Everybody’s loving it and having a good time with smiles on their faces — and a lot of people are buying,” Carla McLaughlin of Legacy Toffee said. She’s been selling at the market every season throughout its 10-year run, she said, and is excited to be back on Main Street.
“We enjoyed the fairgrounds and they were a great host to us, but farmers markets are supposed to be downtown,” she said. “At the fairgrounds it was just the farmers market, and now here you’ve got the backdrop of all the businesses where you can go in and shop and even eat at the restaurants.”
While still at the fairgrounds last season, TCFM spent two weeks selling goods downtown in what vendors described as a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season. TCFM Board President Brandon Follett described these two weeks as a “trial” run for 2019 to the Turlock City Council in March, and following the positive feedback the TCFM Board received during that time, he and fellow Board member Jeani Ferrari continued to meet with downtown business owners to see if the market could possibly return downtown for good this year, receiving a positive response from 30 businesses surveyed.
The Council agreed and approved a Special Event Permit application that will close the east end of Main Street in the downtown corridor to for a Saturday morning market from May 4 through Sept. 28.
According to Griffin, there were 46 vendors at Saturday’s Opening Day, with some old faces returning and some new businesses making their first appearances at the market. Something new TCFM is offering marketgoers this year is the chance to become a “member” of TCFM.
To become a member, community members must make a minimum donation of $25 to TCFM. Memberships include access to special, members-only perks, including recognition on the TCFM website, recognition at the market, a 10th anniversary market bag and a brand new TCFM coffee cup.
There will be other incentives as well, like members-only raffles throughout the TCFM season, and special deals, such as 10 percent off of an item from any booth, for example.
“The community really supports us and they always have,” Griffin said. “This is just another way for them to donate a little money and keep us going.”
According to Griffin, TCFM will throw a 10th anniversary bash at the market closer to the end of the season. In the meantime, shoppers can hunt for goods from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday on Main Street, between Palm Street and Center Street. Those who would like to become a TCFM member or find more information about memberships can visit www.turlockmarket.org/membership.
— Candy Padilla contributed to this report.