John Rieping/The Madera Tribune
Visitors and Valley Children Hospital staff eat and chat behind the hospital at Valley Fresh Farmers Market, which features raw produce, prepared food and artisan items.
Madera’s longstanding Neighborhood Farmers Market may have finished its season, but a newcomer remains. Regardless of weather, Valley Fresh Farmers Market can be found year-round 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays behind Valley Children’s Hospital.
About 300-400 patrons — mostly patients and hospital staff — stop by the weekly market during favorable weather, according to Laurencio Sanchez, co-owner of Sanchez Corn with his wife Griselda.
“It’s a really good idea that we have the farmers market because this way the people who are inside, like hospitalized kids, get distracted,” he said in Spanish. “They can see and try new things … That’s a really cool way of us being able to bring what we have to people here.”
Manning the market in the summertime isn’t always cool of course.
“For us, the hardest thing is being here in the heat because when its so hot people don’t want to come outside, try things and buy from us,” he said. “But we still have to be here so we can motivate them to come outside and have fun.”
Ann Casado, who owns and bakes for Pennsylvania Pastries, shares her heritage with market goers. Though now in Fresno County, she grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and sells treats her mother, grandmothers and aunts once made.
“The peach cobbler in particular is a recipe you’d never see out here,” she said. “It’s Pennsylvania Dutch secret so I can reveal any particulars, but it’s unusual. It’s more cake-like … And then there’s another item I make called a Gob or also known as a Whoopee Pie ... and it’s chocolate cakes with a cream filling. And when you eat one you say, ‘Whoopee.’”
Many sellers also take part in the larger River Park Farmer’s Market in Fresno at 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays, several vendors said.
“The best part (of both markets) I think is how much good produce comes through here,” said Jamie Waite, daughter of the manager of both markets. “I mean our strawberry guy will make people who don’t like strawberries love them. They’re just phenomenal. We’ve got amazing vendors and they’re (Valley) people who do all this stuff.”
“It’s a very small market,” admitted Eleazar Ortiz, owner of Chay’s Farms of Watsonville, in Spanish. “There’s not a lot of business here. It would be better if it were up front (of the hospital) because that’s where most of the visitors and patients arrive.”
He guessed that sales at the Fresno market were “70 percent better” than those at the Valley Children’s Hospital market, which features about a dozen vendors and several food trucks. Both markets are run by the River Park Association.
Nonetheless, Kara Rausch of Springville, near Sequoia National Park, relished the market with her daughters after 4-year-old Ella had a splint taken off her finger inside the hospital.
“A dog bit it,” said Ella, who said she then had a cast on it for six weeks and then a splint for three.
“Now we start the physical therapy, just at home — bending her finger. But it was totally crooked,” explained her mother, who discovered the market thanks to posted signs and her daughter’s doctors.
“We came out here and took a look,” she said, “and it was really hot so we got us each a fruit bowl and then some pineapple juice, some fresh strawberries, and it’s just delicious. Quenching our thirst I guess.”
Ella elaborated, “Well I said, ‘Mom, I’m thirsty. I’m thirsty.’ And that’s why.”
“I really like getting stuff at a farmers market,” her mother said. “It’s healthier I think for us.”
Valley Children’s Hospital is at 9300 Valley Childrens Place.