Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Gabriela Diaz and her father, Antonio Diaz of Diaz Farms sell fruit during a Farmers Market on Thursday at the Madera County Public Health Department. The health department will host this year’s final Farmers Market on July 6 from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. at 14215 Road 28.
Madera County’s Neighborhood Farmers Market will ends its first season under new management this coming Thursday.
“Last few years, First 5 were the coordinators of the farmers market,” said office assistant Brian Gamble of the county’s Public Health Department. “They used to do it out of Courthouse Park, but for funding reasons and just unable to staff, they decided not to do it this year.”
So the health department stepped in so that its clients would not have to go to Fresno to get fresh produce with their Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program vouchers.
“Since this is our first time, … we decided to kind of make it really small,” Gamble said. “We only brought in two vendors: one fruit and one vegetable. Hopefully next year, if it’s successful, we’d like to expand and make it bigger, and perhaps extend it longer through the summer.”
The weekly market moved to an area of grass and trees behind the department’s office on the outskirts of Madera for a short selling season of June 1-July 6.
“It’s a very open space. It’s a safe place. We have our fire department right next to us,” said health educator coordinator Jose Arrezola of the health department. “We try. … A lot of the recipients that come to this market are WIC recipients and so they don’t even have to go to far to find the market.”
Diaz Farms of Fowler and Chang Yang Farms of Fresno continue to sell at the annual market. The county was unable to entice a third longtime vendor from the Madera Ranchos.
“We had invited Ferrer Farm,” Gamble said, “but because we’re keeping it small and we’re trying to limit how many of the like items we have ... we offered (for them) to bring just their strawberries, and they decided not to participate this year. But they’re interested in coming out next year.”
“Nobody wants to have competition,” said Arrezola. “So if you want peaches over here let’s not have peaches over there. Let’s give opportunity to everyone to sell all of their product.”
Attendance has numbered a couple of hundred, Gamble said, except for when heat drove away potential customers.
“My personal hope is just to see it grow … More live music,” Gamble said. “Someday we’d like to offer food vendors as well with hot foods. Perhaps make it as big as one of the Southern California farmers markets. It’ll take a while. We’re a small community and we’re not short staffed but we’re limited staff.”
First-time patron Izabelle Zavala lives down the street from the market, she said, and found it helpful as she cares for her three-month-old child Joaquin. “We get a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables, and they’re organic, which is a plus,” she said. “And I get to save them and freeze them, so when it gets three more months we get to make his own food.”
Her son motivated her to brave the heat to visit the nearby market “to eat better fruits and vegetables so I can be healthier so I can produce more milk for him,” said Zavala, who hopes to see a greater variety of produce at the market in the future.
“It was the first year embarking ourselves in setting up our farmers market,” Arrezola said. “So there’s a lot of learning that we’re taking. So I guess next year it will be (a) better, bigger opportunity for us.”
The last Neighborhood Farmer’s Market of this year will be 4-6 p.m. Thursday at 14215 Road 28.