Farmers markets are an oasis of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and homemade goods. And this time of the year, nearly a dozen of the central San Joaquin Valley’s seasonal markets are preparing to open or already have.
Soon, the seasonal and year-round markets will be overflowing with springtime favorites including blackberries, blueberries, cherries and apricots. And not long after that will come the sweet taste of peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots.
Longtime farmers markets shoppers have their favorite spots, but healthy-food advocates recommend trying a few new markets. Part of the fun of exploring a new farmers market is finding new things to try.
“Sure you can go to the store and buy all your fruits and vegetables,” said LaShawn Macklin of Fresno, who was shopping at The Market on Kern in downtown Fresno. “But when you come to a farmers market you can find food that is fresher, local and maybe something you may have never tried.”
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To help make the most of your visit, vendors and shoppers recommend five things to know about farmers markets.
1. A certified farmers market means that the farmer who grew the produce is the one selling it. Noncertified markets allow farmers and non-farmers to sell products that were bought from other sources, including wholesalers. A complete list of certified markets can be found at www.cdfa.ca.gov.
2. Generally speaking, farmers markets sell food that is grown locally and in season. Grapes this time of year are not coming from the San Joaquin Valley. So to get a better understanding of what’s in season, check out www.platefresno.org. The site has a seasonal produce guide along with a list of farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture programs.
3. Most markets accept the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card or the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Also ask about the market match program that gives EBT users up to $10.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the farmer or their employees. It’s a good opportunity to learn more about what you are buying and how its grown. And don’t assume everything at the market is grown organically. If you don’t know for sure, ask.
5. Farmers markets have become more than places to buy local produce. They have also become a launch pad for local food entrepreneurs. You can find homemade peanut brittle, jams, pastries, freshly roasted nuts, or Mexican style corn.
Seasonal markets in the central San Joaquin Valley that are open or soon to be open
The Market on Kern in Fresno
▪ When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Oct. 25.
▪ Where: Kern Street, between M and N streets in Fresno
▪ Details: 559-490-9966
The downtown market includes a variety of vegetables, tree fruit, berries, citrus, and food vendors including Casa de Tamales, Amazing Brittle and Hamilton Ranches. There is also music and yoga classes from Fulton Yoga Collective.
Oakhurst Farmers Market
▪ When: 4-7 p.m. Thursdays. May 4 through October.
▪ Where: True Value Home Center, 40596 Westlake Drive, Oakhurst
▪ Details: 559-683-7117
Shoppers of this foothills market can find cut flowers, fresh eggs, fruit preserves, honey, herbs, freshly baked bread, produce, olive oil and artisan goods.
Old Town Clovis Farmers Market
▪ When: 5:30-9 p.m. Fridays. May 12 through Sept. 29.
▪ Where: Pollasky Avenue, between Third and Fifth streets, Old Town Clovis
▪ Details: 559-298-5774
The Old Town Clovis farmers market is one of the Valley’s oldest and largest seasonal markets. The market has a little of everything including organic produce, tree fruit, berries, vegetables, grapes, heirloom tomatoes, food trucks and entertainment.
Reedley Farmers Market
▪ When: 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays. May 24 through Aug. 30.
▪ Where: 11th Street, downtown Reedley
▪ Details: 559- 856-1222
The Reedley market is making a comeback after a one-year hiatus. The market will feature a mix of farmers and products including peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots along with vegetables and homemade food products. The market is still looking for vendors, so if you are interested call the Reedley Downtown Association.
River Park Farmers Market in Fresno
▪ When: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays until Oct. 24.
▪ Where: River Park, Blackstone and Nees avenues.
▪ Details: 559-994-9292
River Park Farmers Market is entering its 16th year with a full lineup of vendors. One of the city’s more popular seasonal markets, it offers lots of fruits, vegetables and tasty foods, including homemade cinnamon rolls, shaved ice and street-style roasted corn on the cob.
Sierra View Medical Center Market
▪ When: 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays. May 16 through June 27. From July 11 through Aug. 29. the market moves to downtown Porterville, in front of City Hall on north Main Street.
▪ Where: North Jaye Street and West Putnam Avenue, Porterville.
▪ Details: 559-730-6021
The market will have about 20 vendors selling various produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, tree fruit, berries, corn, watermelon, honey, fresh squeezed juice, farm fresh eggs. They also have prepared foods including roasted corn, Filipino food, and roasted nuts.
Thursday Night Market Place in Hanford
When: 5:30-9 p.m. May 4 through September 28.
Where: Irwin and Seventh streets, Hanford
The market offers a large variety of farm fresh produce including peaches, strawberries, cherries, grapes and prepared foods, including pulled pork sandwiches, pizza, and roasted corn on the cob.
Downtown Visalia Farmers Market
When: 5-8 p.m Thursdays. May 18 through Sept. 21.
Where: Church and Main streets, downtown Visalia.
Many of the vendors will be the same as in Porterville but will also include Rosa Brothers ice cream, the A&W ice cream truck, live music, and kids activities. The market is also home to popular food vendors like Baked Visalia, a local maker of fruit-filled pies.
Year-round farmers markets
▪ The Vineyard Farmers Market, Blackstone and Shaw avenues in Fresno. Open Saturday mornings, 7 a.m. to noon, and Wednesdays, 3-6 p.m. The market features conventional and organic growers of vegetables, fruit, berries, citrus and specialty mushrooms. There are also flowers, eggs, fresh roasted coffee and food trucks, including Taste Kitchen.
▪ Kaiser Permanente Fresno Farmers Market, 7300 N. Fresno St. Open Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. At Kaiser you will find artisanal cheese, local honey, fresh figs, dried fruit, organic stone fruit and berries. Food trucks include Raw Fresno and Casa de Tamales.
▪ Visalia Farmers Market, Sears parking lot, Mooney Boulevard and Caldwell Avenue. Open Saturdays 8-11:30 a.m. This market includes a little of everything, including stone fruit, cucumbers, peppers, hummus, pita chips, ornamental plants, lamb meat, citrus, cheese and pistachios.
▪ Manchester Center Farmers Market, 1901 E. Shields Ave. in Fresno. Open Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Details: 559-260-2915. Manchester Center’s market is home to farmers selling vegetables, berries, flavored nuts, citrus and flowers. There are also several foods trucks and local bakers, including The Brioche Lady.
▪ Old Town Clovis Farmers Market, Pollasky and Bullard avenues. Open Saturdays, 8-11:30 a.m. The market shares many of the same vendors from the Friday night market, including Shasky Farms, Farmer & The Dale and Top O’ The Morn Farms.
▪ Valley Fresh Farmers Market, Valley Children’s Hospital, 9300 Valley Children’s Place, Madera County. Open Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Along with farmers selling fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, the market features several food trucks including Takobbq Truck, Ganesh Masala and Sanchez Grilled Corn on the Cob.