Green never out of season at Stockton's year-round farmers market
You might be surprised what you can find at a mid-winter farmers market.
There are loads of winter greens: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, as well as Asian greens, such as bok choi and napa cabbage.
Linn Groom, manager of the Stockton Certified Farmers' Market, said the event held year-round Saturdays under the Crosstown Freeway features all sorts of citrus fruits this time of year: oranges, tangerines, sweet limes, manderins.
There are also organic mushrooms, fresh eggs, honey, apples, onions, yams, sweet potatoes and persimmons.
And the market that caters to many Asian customers also has fresh tofu, soy milk, rice noodles, as well as rice, dried beans and an aisle of seafood vendors.
"There's a lot more growing than people think during the winter," Groom said.
That may be one reason for a boom in wintertime farmers markets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture counts 1,225 such events operating sometime between November and March this year, a gain of nearly 40 percent in just the past year.
New York leads the nation with 180 winter farmers markets, with California not far behind with 153, the USDA reported.
Stockton has two. The downtown Saturday market is the oldest, begun in 1979. There is also a market each Sunday morning at Yokuts and Claremont avenues east of Weberstown Mall, which is separately operated by the San Joaquin Certified Farmers' Market.
In explaining the growth of such events, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said, "Consumers are looking for more ways to buy locally grown food throughout the year.
Through winter markets, American farmers are able to meet this need and bring in additional income to support their families and businesses."
Robert Groom, president of the Stockton Certified market association, agreed that consumer interest is on the rise.
"They start getting that stuff and they find out how good it is, they kind of get hooked on it," he said. Freshness is the key.
"It's really a 180-degree difference in eating it the day it was picked versus a week old," he said.
Linn Groom, his granddaughter, reported that market vendors say they are getting more business this year than last.
"We've even seen a huge increase in the amount of food stamps being used at our market as well," she noted. "You can find a lot of things that are cheaper than you can find at the grocery store, than even at Walmart."
And as consumers increasingly seek bargains in the continued weak economy, market vendors are seeking more year-round opportunities, Linn Groom said.
Some may have lost nonfarm employment in the weak economy and want to boost earnings from farming.
"They'd like to have a source of income during the winter. That's what I'm hearing from our vendors," she said.
The Sunday market at Weberstown runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., rain or shine, and the Saturday market also runs year-round.
But it is an early bird's event, opening at 5:30 a.m. and many vendors begin packing up by 10 a.m., although the official closing time is 11 a.m.
The downtown market also caters to many ethnic customers, with fruits and vegetables not often found in major supermarket chains.
"Get a taste of Asia without a passport," Robert Groom said is how he likes to describe it.
Contact reporter Reed Fujii at (209) 546-8253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Market must stop poultry sales
Live chickens and other livestock, popular with the customers at the Saturday morning farmers market in downtown Stockton, will be gone Jan. 1.
A new state law, intended to curb unregulated sales of cats, dogs and other pets on public streets and highways, in parking lots and at carnivals, is written so broadly it will shut down live poultry sales at the Stockton Certified Farmers' Market, said Robert Groom, president of the market association.
"It's going to be a detriment to the market," he said. "About 20 percent of our customers buy that stuff."
Groom said the market's many Asian customers regard live animals as the freshest, most wholesome food available.
The new law, Senate Bill 917, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July and takes effect in the New Year.
"We're going to try and get this law changed," Groom said. He just wants to serve his consumers, Groom said.
"They should be able to get what they want from the farmers market," Groom said. "We're forcing people more and more to go to the store."