Food & Drink

10 things you need to know about Valley farmers markets

Farmers markets have become a hotbed for buying locally grown produce. And in the central San Joaquin Valley, where more than 200 different fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown, farmers markets provide consumers with a one-of-a-kind opportunity. But how do you get the most out of the region’s farmers markets?

We talked with farmers, farmers market managers and consumers to come up with 10 things you need to know about the Valley’s farmers markets.

1. Break out of your comfort zone. It’s OK to drive out of your neighborhood, or city, to visit another market. The Valley is loaded with farmers markets and vendors unique to their regions. What you’ll find may surprise you. Visalia’s market on Thursday night and on Saturday morning features Oak Patch Vegetables. The Visalia-based farm produces dozens of varieties of lettuce and greens whose flavors range from peppery to slightly sweet.

“It is fascinating and fun to learn about the different types of lettuce,” says Gingi Freeman, Visalia’s market manager. “It opens up a whole new world.”

Freeman said a new state law now allows farmers markets to offer beer and wine sampling and sales. In Visalia, Kaweah Brewing Co. and Cacciatore Fine Wines will join the market soon.

2. Meet some of the Valley’s up-and-coming food entrepreneurs. At the Vineyard Farmer’s Market in Fresno you can find premium dark chocolate from Molucca Craft Chocolate, fresh hummus from Sarah’s Harvest and farmstead cheese from the Dairy Goddess. The market is open Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Ninik Billington has created several types of nut brittles, including pecan, cashew and almond. You can find her on Tuesday morning at one of Fresno’s newest markets, in the parking lot of the Veterans Hospital on Clinton and Fresno streets.

3. Take time to talk with the farmers. Unless they are super busy, many welcome the interaction with the public. Ask about what’s in season, or about different varieties, and nibble on a sample, if it’s available. You may discover the best-tasting piece of fruit on the planet.

“Ask a lot of questions,” says Kayla Trevino, of Trevino Family Farms. “The reason for going to markets is that personal connection with your food and the farmer, so go for it.”

Trevino can be found at several markets, including the one at Kaiser Permanente in Fresno on Wednesday mornings.

4. Take it slow. To really experience the sights and smells of the market, make it a leisurely experience. Some shoppers like to walk through the entire market before deciding what to buy. “If you speed walk through and grab what you need, like at a supermarket, you won’t get much out of it,” Trevino says.

5. Buy at least one thing you’ve never eaten and ask how to cook it. Part of the joy of a farmers market is exploration. If you love cooking, experiment with an Asian vegetable like a daikon radish, opo squash or bok choy. It could become your new favorite food.

6. Bring plenty of cash, preferably smaller bills. Although more farmers are using electronic devices that allow you to swipe your credit or debit card, cash still rules. And leave the big bills at home. It’s hard to break a $50 or $100, especially when the market first opens.

7. Unless your pet is a service animal, leave Fido at home. Farmers and food vendors must be adhere to strict food safety rules. A dog who enjoys counter surfing a table of produce isn’t going to make you a lot of friends.

8. Don’t haggle over prices. One of the reasons farmers sell directly to consumers is to avoid the added costs of a middle man. The money you give the farmer generally goes straight to the farmer. The markets are their livelihood and many do multiple markets to keep their operations going.

9. Know the difference between a certified and noncertified farmers market. In simple terms, a certified farmers market in California is one where the farmer who grew the produce is the one who sells it. Noncertified markets can sell produce that was purchased from other sources, including wholesalers from outside the area. Most of the Valley’s markets are certified, but to be sure, ask one of the vendors, or check the state’s website.

10. Farmers markets are for everyone. Access to fresh and healthy foods is not just for the elite. And while some prices may seem slightly higher, that isn’t always the case. To make the markets more accessible to low-income shoppers, many markets now accept the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card or the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Seasonal markets in the central San Joaquin Valley

▪ The El Paseo Farmers Market

When: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays. May 7 through Oct. 29.

Where: The Marketplace at El Paseo shopping center, Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue

Details: 559-994-9292

This new market will include fresh fruits and vegetables, along with live entertainment, and activities for children, including pony rides. The market will start off with 20 to 25 vendors and grow from there, organizers said.

▪ Kingsburg Farmers Market

When: 5-9 p.m. Thursdays. May 19 through end of July.

Where: Draper Street

Details: 559-859-1722

Farm fresh fruits, vegetables and locally made cheese, raw honey, blueberries, and olive oil, are among the goods that will be sold at the Kingsburg farmers market. Market manager Daren Hess said that market will also coincide with Kingsburg’s summer band concerts.

▪ The Market on Kern in Fresno

When: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays. May 4 through Oct. 26.

Where: Kern Street, between M and N streets in Fresno

Details: 559-490-9966

The downtown market features a variety of vegetables, tree fruit, berries, citrus, food vendors and arts and crafts items.

▪ Oakhurst Farmers Market

When: 4-7 p.m. Thursdays. May 5 through October.

Where: True Value Home Center, 40596 Westlake Drive, Oakhurst

Details: 683-7117

Shoppers of this foothills market can find cut flowers, fresh eggs, fruit preserves, honey, herbs, bread, produce, olive oil and artisan goods.

▪ Old Town Clovis Farmers Market

When: 5:30-9 p.m. Fridays. May 13 through Sept. 30.

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

Details: 559-298-5774

The Old Town Clovis farmers market, one of the Valley’s oldest and largest seasonal venues, provides a little bit of everything: fresh fruits, vegetables, farm fresh eggs, nuts, grass-fed beef, food vendors, live crabs and entertainment.

▪ River Park Farmers Market in Fresno

When: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays until Oct. 25.

Where: River Park, Blackstone and Nees avenues

Details: 559-994-9292

River Park Farmers Market continues to maintain its focus on locally grown and organic food by offering produce from many vendors selling grapes, tree fruit, berries and vegetables.

▪ Sierra View Medical Center Market

When: 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays. May 31 until Aug. 30.

Where: North Jaye Street and West Putnam Avenue, Porterville

Details: 559-730-6021

The new market will have about 30 vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

▪ Thursday Night Market Place in Hanford

When: 5:30-9 p.m. May 5 through Sept. 29.

Where: Irwin and Seventh streets, Hanford

Details: 559-582-9457

With nearly 100 vendors, the market offers a huge variety of farm fresh produce including peaches, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, squash, onions and spinach. The market is also known for its food vendors that sell: pulled pork sandwiches, roasted corn on the cob, pizza, funnel cakes with strawberries and tri-tip sandwiches. Also, there will be pony rides, bounce houses and live music.

▪ Downtown Visalia Farmers Market

When: 5-8 p.m. Thursdays, through end of September

Where: Downtown Visalia, corner of Main and Church streets

Details: 559-730-6021

The Visalia market offers a large selection of locally grown fruits and vegetables, along with canned items including jams, jellies and pickled items. Vendors also sell baked goods, including breads and muffins. The market also has live music, children’s entertainment and arts and crafts vendors.

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.

▪ Kaiser Permanente Fresno Farmers Market, 7300 N. Fresno St. Open Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

▪ Visalia Farmers Market, Sears parking lot, Mooney Boulevard and Caldwell Avenue. Open Saturdays 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

▪ Manchester Center Farmers Market, 1901 E. Shields Ave. in Fresno. Open Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Details: (559) 260-2915

▪ Old Town Clovis Farmers Market, Pollasky and Bullard avenues. Open Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

▪ Veterans Hospital Farmers Market, Clinton and Fresno streets, Open Tuesdays, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob

Seasonal markets in the central San Joaquin Valley

▪ The El Paseo Farmers Market

When: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays. May 7 through Oct. 29.

Where: The Marketplace at El Paseo shopping center, Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue

Details: 559-994-9292

This new market will include fresh fruits and vegetables, along with live entertainment, and activities for children, including pony rides. The market will start off with 20 to 25 vendors and grow from there, organizers said.

▪ Kingsburg Farmers Market

When: 5-9 p.m. Thursdays. May 19 through end of July.

Where: Draper Street

Details: 559-859-1722

Farm fresh fruits, vegetables and locally made cheese, raw honey, blueberries, and olive oil, are among the goods that will be sold at the Kingsburg farmers market. Market manager Daren Hess said that market will also coincide with Kingsburg's summer band concerts.

▪ The Market on Kern in Fresno

When: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays. May 4 through Oct. 26.

Where: Kern Street, between M and N streets in Fresno

Details: 559-490-9966

The downtown market features a variety of vegetables, tree fruit, berries, citrus, food vendors and arts and crafts items.

▪ Oakhurst Farmers Market

When: 4-7 p.m. Thursdays. May 5 through October.

Where: True Value Home Center, 40596 Westlake Drive, Oakhurst

Details: 683-7117

Shoppers of this foothills market can find cut flowers, fresh eggs, fruit preserves, honey, herbs, bread, produce, olive oil and artisan goods.

▪ Old Town Clovis Farmers Market

When: 5:30-9 p.m. Fridays. May 13 through Sept. 30.

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

Details: 559-298-5774

The Old Town Clovis farmers market, one of the Valley's oldest and largest seasonal venues, provides a little bit of everything: fresh fruits, vegetables, farm fresh eggs, nuts, grass-fed beef, food vendors, live crabs and entertainment.

▪ River Park Farmers Market in Fresno

When: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays until Oct. 25.

Where: River Park, Blackstone and Nees avenues

Details: 559-994-9292

River Park Farmers Market continues to maintain its focus on locally grown and organic food by offering produce from many vendors selling grapes, tree fruit, berries and vegetables.

▪ Sierra View Medical Center Market

When: 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, May 31 until Aug. 30.

Where: North Jaye Street and West Putnam Avenue, Porterville

Details: 559-730-6021

The new market will have about 30 vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

▪ Thursday Night Market Place in Hanford

When: 5:30-9 p.m. May 5 through Sept. 29.

Where: Irwin and Seventh streets, Hanford

Details: 559-582-9457

With nearly 100 vendors, the market offers a huge variety of farm fresh produce including peaches, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, squash, onions and spinach. The market is also known for its food vendors that sell: pulled pork sandwiches, roasted corn on the cob, pizza, funnel cakes with strawberries and tri-tip sandwiches. Also, there will be pony rides, bounce houses and live music.

▪ Downtown Visalia Farmers Market

When: 5-8 p.m. Thursdays, through end of September

Where: Downtown Visalia, corner of Main and Church streets

Details: 559-730-6021

The Visalia market offers a large selection of locally grown fruits and vegetables, along with canned items including jams, jellies and pickled items. Vendors also sell baked goods, including breads and muffins. The market also has live music, children's entertainment and arts and crafts vendors.

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.

Kaiser Permanente Fresno Farmers Market, 7300 N. Fresno St. Open Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Visalia Farmers Market, Sears parking lot, Mooney Blvd. and Caldwell Avenue. Open Saturdays 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Manchester Center Farmers Market, 1901 E. Shields Ave. in Fresno. Open Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Details: (559) 260-2915

Old Town Clovis Farmers Market, Pollasky and Bullard avenues. Open Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Veterans Hospital Farmers Market, Clinton and Fresno streets, Open Tuesdays, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

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