Valley farmers markets freshen things up

May 11, 2010 

Fruits, vegetables, music and face-painting: Yes, it’s high time for farmers markets again.

Driven by the abundance of strawberries and leafy greens, the promise of peaches and tomatoes, and long, lingering daylight, the seasonal farmers markets are opening in droves. They join the year-round farmers markets in celebrating the harvest of the central San Joaquin Valley.

Some of the seasonal markets are all about the food, while others load up on entertainment, infusing these events with a fairlike atmosphere. Here’s a list of them, with hints of what to expect:

KISS Country farmers market at River Park

When: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays until Oct. 26

Where: River Park, Blackstone and Nees avenues

Details: (559) 994-9292

Formerly known as the River Park farmers market, this market is undergoing some changes. 93.7 KISS Country has become the market’s sponsor, says founder Peter De Young.

Known in the past for a mix of arts, crafts and fresh produce, De Young says he slowly is shifting the market’s focus back to food: fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, cheeses, herbs and gourmet food items.

Pines Resort farmers market

When: 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays until Sept. 29

Where: 54310 Road 432, The Pines Village at Bass Lake

Details: (559) 642-8163

This little market focuses on food with vendors for berries, fruit, vegetables and flowers. The growers are working on organic certification, says market manager Chuck Nugent.

Downtown Visalia farmers market

When: 5-8 p.m. Thursdays until Oct. 28

Where: Downtown Visalia

Details: (559) 967-6722

At this farmers market, vendors sell locally grown fruits, vegetables, chicken, eggs and beef, says market manager Paige Williams. It also features vendors of crafts and prepared food, live music and a bounce house for children every second Thursday of the month.

Thursday Night Market Place

When: 5:30-9 p.m. Thursdays until Oct. 28

Where: Irwin and Seventh streets, Hanford

Details: (559) 582-9457

Last week kicked off the 10th season of this popular market, which is a mix of food and entertainment. Expect to find foods such as eggs, fruits, vegetables, jellies, olives, cheese and barbecue, says Shelly Talbert, executive director of Main Street Hanford. Activities include face-painting, rock climbing and other entertainment.

Kingsburg farmers market

When: 5-8 p.m. Thursdays until Oct. 14, plus a final celebration on Oct. 23

Where: Draper Street in Downtown Kingsburg

Details: (559) 897-1111

Thursday is a good time to head to Kingsburg. The launch of this year’s market coincides with the start of the city’s 45th annual Swedish Festival, which lasts through Saturday. That means fruits, vegetables and a traditional Swedish meal of yellow pea soup and thin pancakes (served 5-7 p.m. Thursday in downtown Kingsburg). Other food events at the festival include a Swedish smorgasbord (5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday at Coffee Pot Park) and a Swedish pancake breakfast (7-10 a.m. Saturday at Coffee Pot Park).

The final market on Oct. 23 is a celebration of pumpkins, with a $1,000 prize for growing the largest pumpkin and a $100 prize for a pumpkin-eating contest, says Jess Chambers, executive director of the Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce.

Rock the Mall

When: 6-9 p.m. on selected Thursday nights until Sept. 23

Where: Sierra Vista Mall, Cole and Shaw avenues, Clovis

Details: sierravistamall.com or 299-0660

Formerly known as Music in the Park and farmers market, these events feature fresh produce with concerts. Dates are Thursday, May 27, June 10, June 24, July 8, Aug. 26, Sept. 9 and Sept. 23.

Old Town Clovis farmers market

When: 5:30-9 p.m. Fridays until Sept. 10

Where: Pollasky Avenue, between Third and Fifth streets, Old Town Clovis

Details: (559) 298-5774

Head there early on Friday to hunt for a good parking spot. With attractions such as locally grown produce, pony rides, car shows, live music and even the North American Pole Vault Championships on Aug. 6, this market always draws a crowd.

Reedley Downtown Association Certified Farmers Market

When: 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays from May 19 to Aug. 25

Where: G Street, Downtown Reedley

Details: (559) 638-5484

This market has a heavy emphasis on fresh produce, crafts and jewelry, says Barbie Shakespeare, executive director of the Reedley Downtown Association.

“We encourage people to dine at one of our downtown restaurants and pick up their fruits and vegetables,” she says. Once a month, the market also will have entertainment.

The Garden Market at Courthouse Park

When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays from June 1 to Dec. 21

Where: Between the courthouse and Van Ness Avenue, downtown Fresno

Details: (559) 488-1705

This market, a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will focus on locally grown food from Fresno County producers. Occasionally, it will feature cooking demonstrations.

Its strategic location should attract downtown workers and low-income families, says Vicki Wajdak, a Fresno County principal administrative analyst. This market will accept certain types of public assistance, such as Electronic Benefit Transfer (the food stamp electronic cards) and vouchers from the Women and Infants program.

Sanger farmers market and street faire

When: 6-10 p.m. Saturdays from June 5 to June 26

Where: Seventh and N streets, downtown Sanger

Details: (559) 875-4575

This market is open a short time, but it packs in a lot of activities and runs late into the evening. In addition to locally grown fruits and vegetables, it features other foods, such as barbecue, tacos, kettle corn and shaved ice.

Entertainment includes a car show on June 5, as well as bounce houses and games for children. A Women, Infants and Children booth will distribute vouchers on site. This market also accepts farmers’ market vouchers for low-income senior citizens.

Madera County farmers market

When: 4-6:30 p.m. Thursdays from June 17 to Aug. 19

Details: (559) 661-5155

This is a large farmers market, with more than 70 confirmed vendors, Ruth Barajas-Cordova, health-and-wellness assistant at First 5 Madera County. Like the other large markets, this one offers fruits and vegetables with entertainment and children’s activities, such as face-painting.

This market takes the food stamp electronic cards and Women, Infants and Children vouchers.

The reporter can be reached at jobra@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6365. Read her blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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