Get your veggies out
Farmers’ markets kick off today – with a new federal seniors program, an early produce season and anticipated growth for the two associations serving the South Shore.
“The market is probably going to expand again this year,” Sierra Farmers’ Markets Manager Jana Fuller said Thursday.
Both associations experienced about a 30 percent growth in last year’s sales.
On Thursday, Fuller was putting last-minute touches on her prep work for today’s markets slated every Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Kahle Park off Kingsbury Grade at Stateline. It lasts until Sept. 14.
This year, 15 vendors from Nevada and California are expected to bring an assortment of goods – from honey, bread, pastries, herbs, cheese, peaches and apples to hanging pots and plants.
Hoss from the Vegetable Patch in Placerville even shows up with a recipe book – “Cooking with Hoss.”
Many of these vendors hit the markets’ circuit, with some showing their goods on Wednesdays, beginning June 6, in Gardnerville at Lampe Park off Highway 395.
On Tuesday, June 5, the popular South Lake Tahoe market at the American Legion Hall on U.S. Highway 50 should bloom with a promising season at 8 a.m., El Dorado County Certified Farmers’ Markets President Jim Coalwell indicated.
Coalwell also echoed Fuller’s expectation that the markets look promising this season – especially with the warm days and little rain allowing for an early harvest of fruits and vegetables.
Cherries are in harvest and fresh tomatoes may even make the table this Tuesday.
At least 18 vendors are expected to make their way to the American Legion site, with anything from baked goods to jams and jellies.
There’s even a jalapeno jelly that makes a particularly tasty glaze for pork tenderloin.
“I even made my husband get new brakes for his truck,” said vendor Barbara Ann Coullier, who started selling on Lake Tahoe Boulevard last year.
Coullier, who coexists with and even refers customers to the fruity jam display of the Mitchell sisters of Pollock Pines, buys and sells at the markets. She needs fresh peppers for her pepper jelly with mint, which accentuates a lamb dish.
Surprisingly, the markets don’t cannibalize each other, Coalwell insisted.
“Probably that market is going to grow every year because the population is going to grow,” he said, adding the growth will require competitive pricing though.
“People do complain things at farmers’ markets are more expensive than items bought at the grocery store. But that’s simply not true,” the Placerville fruit grower said.
Local stores like Cork n More have also gotten in on the act, buying produce such as corn, tomatoes and basil for their customers.
Coalwell launched a promotional campaign with print advertisements and radio spots to get out the word that the farmers have come to town and intend to stay.
This year, the markets may get a boost from seniors.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $15 million in grants to send 370,000 low-income seniors in 31 states to the farmers markets with more than 60,000 coupons.
In its first year, the Senior Farmers Markets Nutrition Pilot Program – spun out of USDA’s Women, Infant and Children food program for low-income families – allocates $1 million to California certified markets.
A few weeks ago, a crowd at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center nabbed 150 coupons – written for $1 and $2 in a matter of minutes, Gary Moore of the center said.
“Seniors do shop there a lot,” Moore said, referring to the American Legion Post.
The program intends to serve two purposes – to encourage low-income seniors to eat fresh fruit and vegetables and to allow vendors to tap into a new market. To be eligible, people must be at least 60 years old.
The program fills in a gap because most farmers markets don’t accept food stamps, leaving low-income Americans with fewer ways to get fresh food.
“It’s a godsend to growers and the same for seniors,” said Coalwell, who attended a workshop on the subject.
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