Farmers Markets Add New Locations, Double Vouchers
Last updated 6/11/2019 at 10:28am | View PDF
Shoppers at Visalia's Farmers Markets will be saying goodbye to a long-time location this year, but will double down in more ways than one when two new venues open in May.
The Downtown Thursday Night Market is no more, a victim of poor air quality and stifling summer heat, according to Farmers Market Manager Angie Warkentin, who added there has been a downward trend in vendor and participant attendance at the event.
"Last year, we averaged 30 vendors," she said, contrasting that to 2010, a time when the popularity of most farmers markets peaked, when "we had as many as 50 vendors." She also noted that summertime air quality and being outdoors in the evening heat is difficult for seniors, and commented, "people who attend evening farmers markets are generally there to enjoy the atmosphere of the market. They aren't there so much to shop."
Organizers found a solution just a few blocks away from the Thursday night Main and Church Street location. A new Thursday morning farmers market, known as the Lumberyard Market, will open starting June 6 from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Garden and Oak Streets, the location of the Visalia Arts Consortium.
"There's definitely more room," Warkentin said, "and there's shade from the Arts Consortium structures."
The deal with the Arts Consortium, finalized in February, is just the first new partnership sought by the organization. An additional Farmers Market will open May 14 in the parking lot of Kaweah Delta Healthcare District's West Campus near the northeast corner of Tulare Avenue and Akers Street.
"We've been talking to Kaweah Delta for quite a while," Warkentin said. "Having a sponsor makes a huge difference. We aren't running markets to try to make money. Our goal is to make sure our community has access to affordable, locally grown produce, and to make sure farmers make a fair wage."
While the locations are new, there will also be new attractions. The Lumber Yard Market will feature Zumba classes and "urban art," while the Kaweah Delta Market will feature health screenings and education, as well as children's activities each week courtesy of ImagineU.
Meanwhile, the year-round Saturday Farmers Market will continue in the Sears parking lot on south Mooney Boulevard, while the Porterville Farmers Market will open on May 23 on the grounds of Sierra View Medical Center. All markets will have identical hours of operation.
Vouchers will be doubled
New locations aren't the only source of excitement. Thanks to a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, discount vouchers provided to low-income seniors age 60+ will be doubled, providing $40 instead of $20 in shopping value to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, honey or herbs. Vouchers can only be doubled in value at the Visalia Farmers Market Association certified farmers markets in Visalia and Porterville.
"It's not uncommon for us to have 40-50 seniors before (the vouchers) even arrive, and line up an hour before the market even starts," she said. "We run out every market. Tulare County has the highest redemption rate in the state for vouchers. We think we've budgeted enough to get us through the summer markets," adding that vouchers are only valid through October this year. Vouchers will be distributed at all four farmers markets.
Vouchers are valid at any of the participating certified farmers markets in Tulare or Kings Counties. Additional limits may apply, and those interested should inquire at the market for more details. Vouchers will be distributed once the printed booklets are received from the state, which is anticipated sometime in May.
For more information about the vouchers, call the Kings Tulare Area Agency on Aging at (559) 623-0199. For more information about the farmers markets and voucher doubling, call the Visalia Farmers Market Association at (559) 730-6021 or visit http://www.VisaliaFarmersMarket.com.