by Tom Sims
Tom Sims searches the Valley for tips on eating healthy, buying healthy food, growing healthy food, and eating out healthy in the Valley, for this Healthy Eating in the Valley column. Feel free to share your suggestions of places and things to check out!
A day at the Manchester Mall just got healthier, tastier, and friendlier for me.
Manchester Farmer’s Market is a neighborhood venture, created by neighbors who care about their community and are making a difference every week. Manny and Mary Yanez are those two people and, out of their vision, Manny’s need to do something with his time, and Manchester Mall’s welcome to morning walkers, a great venture was launched.
It’s been going for four years come this November. It is every Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m..
Manny retired in 2005. The problem is that he wasn’t tired. So he started walking and dreaming. His walks took him through Manchester Mall where he met a fellow walker and they started thinking about what sort of business they could plant there.
At first it was a swap meet, but that was not ultimately compatible with the mall’s priorities. It is then that Manny came up with the idea of a farmer’s market. His business partner had other interests, so Manny and Mary launched it themselves.
Today, it serves the community that lives around Manchester as well as the communities that shop and work there, including about 1000 people who work for the state of California and for Workforce Connection and buy their vegetables and fruits fresh every Friday.
There is energy in the air.
Farmers and brokers bring their food. Some use this market as their only or main outlet. Others “spread the wealth.”
All are willing to share information about their crops as well as cooking tips.
I bought long beans, garbanzo beans in the shell, and cactus with instructions for the preparation of each. No one had to tell me what to do with the fruits, fresh and dried. Nor did I need honey instructions, but bee keeper, Max was willing to talk with me about its health benefits as well as the different varieties he bottles.
Max also sells his honey on the internet under the label, BZ Bodies at www.mybzbodies.com or by phone at 559-765-8000.
The market is a friendly place and it is a healthy place.
It is also accessible. One of the barriers to healthy food for the poor is food accessibility. The right food does not always make it to the neighborhoods where it is needed. The farmer’s market accepts EBT cards! People with low income are not doomed to canned or processed foods.
There is more than just food for the digestion. You can feed your skin too!
Jennifer Briskin shared with me how she had developed organic skin and cleaning products for her own use. It then occurred to her that others could use her creations. So she started packaging them and bringing them to market as Simple Serenity. She is both a marketer and a teacher at the event and is even developing a party plan to share her discoveries with a wider audience.
Jennifer says, “We take pride in what we make with all handmade natural organic spa products. We know the stress of everyday life can be overwhelming; between work, kids, relationships, friends, family, social gatherings, and of course the ever so popular unexpected events. This is why we have created a whole line of products that not only help you to relax and enjoy life a bit more but also indulge yourself into something beautiful without the huge price tag that comes along with going to the spot to pamper yourself.”
I diced my cactus, added some zucchini, potatoes, and a few other ingredients, sautéed them, and ate the whole batch!
I bought two pepper plants for my garden from mini-nursery with advice on how and where to plant them and how often they needed water. They are doing pretty well in spite of the extreme heat and water rations.I ate the most amazing and delicious fish tostado from one of the three food trucks, Del Mar a su Mesa Seafood. It was served with enthusiasm and there was a comfortable place to sit and eat. When you cannot find this truck, they are located at 4772 E. Olive. Ave.
I was waved down by a friend who introduced me to Johnny Pemberton and his music. John originated in Fresno, migrated south, and now is spending some time here in local establishments sharing fresh ballads and positive country music. He willingly interacts on Facebook. You can check out his music on his Youtube Channel.
According to his website, “John loved music from a small child and began playing the guitar at the young age of 10. He later began playing in his family band in and around his home town of Fresno California for eight years. Throughout his life John’s love of people and singing has been a constant and driving force in his musical career. He currently travels the United States performing the music he loves.”
The music makes the atmosphere more festive and communal. I especially liked his song, “That Was Then.”
Manny, Mary, their kin, and their friends, are ever present to assist and converse and have their own table with information.
At the end of the day, there are usually left-overs and some of the vendors would prefer not to haul them off. Manny is proud of what happens next and deeply gratified that people are being helped. There is no waste.
Fresno State’s student-led Food Recovery Network shows up to glean the leftovers. According to them, the organization “unites students …to fight food waste and hunger by recovering surplus perishable food from their campuses and surrounded communities that would otherwise go to waste and donating it to people in need … With the help of students volunteers and the partnerships of community organizations, businesses, restaurants, Fresno State’s cafeteria and generous donors we can eliminate food waste and hunger.”
Essentially, they pick it up, distribute it to non-profits, churches, and food pantries, and even put on a weekly meal for the poor and homeless themselves. Read more on their website or their Facebook page.
I was there at the market weeks ago and had to skip last week. I’ve had two conversations with Manny and on the last one I said, “I will see you tomorrow.”
Manchester is one of my neighborhoods and I am grateful for the health and food access that Manny and Mary are bringing to our community. I am also enamored by the fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, organic products, and local honey I can get there.
I can be fed and entertained, engage in fun conversation, and feel good about Blackstone and its potential.
And … if I need to do so, I can even sign up for a Farmers Insurance policy with Kevin Lisitsin, klisitsin@farmersagent[dot]com. Yes. They cover all the bases. I suggest that my friends living in apartments discuss renter’s insurance with him.
I am a fan of Manchester Farmer’s Market.
In other news, and in closing …
If you need to contact Manny or Mary about the market or about renting a booth, write or call:
mcfarmersmarket@yahoo[dot]com or 559-360-1377.
Manchester Mall is at the corner of Blackstone and Shields in the heart of Fresno, just off 41.
Stay tuned for my next healthy eating article on Abundant Harvest Organics, having fresh food come to you on a regular basis directly from the farm.