by Jim Bulls
Years ago, at the height of the family farm, the farmer planned his chores around the weekly trip to town on Friday night. This is when the family would do the week’s shopping and catch up on the local gossip. Stores were generally open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and catered to the farmer’s needs. In the mid-1960s, as the family farm became less and less profitable, the stores stopped staying open late and many closed or left town. Now the tide has turned.
Today farmers come to town to sell their wares and produce in an attempt to bring business back downtown, to the few stores that may be open. In Reedley, they set up their booths on the west side of G Street, usually alternating between 10th and 11th one week and between 11th and 12th the next. It is a fascinating display of fresh picked fruit and vegetables, homemade preserves, honey, and bunches of flowers, with a few handcrafts and food booth items thrown in for good measure.
Reedley’s Farmers’ Market is certified, meaning that the produce sold by the farmer is grown and harvested by the farmer. Each farmer has certification papers approved by the government and these papers are checked before the farmer can sell. Many of the local farmers make the rounds of farmer’s markets in nearby communities like Kingsburg, Selma, Dinuba and Fresno.
Reedley’s market is open every Wednesday from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Unfortunately on opening day last week, the wind was blowing like I was back in west Texas so when I arrived about 5:30 to start interviewing people, they were packing up to leave. There were about 15 vendors and about double that many shoppers. I do know from past experience, that the number of vendors will increase, as will the number of shoppers.
Here are some shopping tips on how to make your farmer’s market experience a great one.
• Walk through the whole market first and check out all the offerings before you buy—there can be a big difference in price for the same produce.
• Bring lots of small bills and change.
• Bring your own large shopping bags. If you do use bags provided by a farmer, remember to bring them back the following week.
• Remember to wear comfortable clothes and shoes. A fanny pack is the safest way to keep your money and keys, and it allows you to have both hands free when shopping.
• Don’t insult the farmer by bargaining for small amounts of produce.
• Don’t be too picky about produce that doesn’t look perfect. Remember most of the produce is fresh from the field not the beauty parlor. Also handle the produce gently and be careful not to damage it.
As the weather improves, the market will improve. Being downtown after 5:00 p.m., made me feel good and I was able to chat with some old friends. None of us could remember a formal farmer’s market being held in early-day Reedley; although farmers would often display their produce at certain times of the year.
I wish that more stores would take advantage of the opportunity to stay open a little later on Wednesday nights, instead of just the restaurants and thrift stores. As for me, I’m looking forward to treating myself to Bulldog ice cream from the Reedley Sandwich Shop after I finish my shopping.
In case you want to stop by the Reedley Sandwich Shop as well, print this coupon and take it with you when you go:
Watch for an article on Sanger’s Farmers Market on Saturday here in KRL & if you pick up some peaches at one of these markets check out our peaches article which includes 2 delicious recipes!
Info on Kingsburg’s Farmers Market
Thursdays: 5-8 p.m.
June 4th through September 29th, 2011
Place: Swedish Village
Kingsburg area farm fresh produce, crafts & information booths