Where can you find fresh food, local produce and small town charm all in one place? The answer is the Davis Farmers Market, which came from humble beginnings and is now in the midst of celebrating its 34th birthday.
The Davis Farmers Market was not always the large structure and organization it is today. Back in 1976, it consisted of only three to four farms selling produce from boxes on the ground.
“This overhead structure wasn’t here back then,” said Jennifer Heinlein, a Farmers market seller for Good Humus Farms, referring to the structure in Central Park.
Good Humus, one of the original founding farms, still runs an active stand today. Owners of Good Humus, Jeff and Annie Maine both helped start the market and the Davis Food Co-op.
By 1978, when Randii MacNear became market manager, the number of vendors doubled. What was once a three-seller market grew to six, and it has continued to grow over the years, progressing to the vast number of vendors present today.
“Davis is the perfect storm for a farmers market,” MacNear said. “[The market] has got all the right things that just add up to make it what it is today.”
The Farmers Market has become much more than just a few farmers selling produce from boxes. Each year the American Farmland Trust hosts an “America’s Favorite Farmers Market” contest, and in 2009, Davis placed as one of America’s top three favorite markets. In 2010, it was ranked second in the large market category with 2896 votes.
What makes this particular farmer’s market so successful? Anne McDonald, owner of McDonald Orchards, has been maintaining a stand with her husband at the market for nearly six years. McDonald attributes the success to the atmosphere.
“It’s a really pleasant place,” McDonald said. “I enjoy the other vendors and people, and the whole environment is really pleasurable.”
MacNear agreed that the market’s success has a lot to do with location.
“It’s located in a park and downtown. It’s also close to the UC Davis campus, which is an agricultural college that is very health and agriculturally minded,” she said. “The people of Davis value the ideals of small and local, and the market represents these values. It matches the people of Davis.”
The market runs twice a week to fit the needs of the Davis population. In addition to its main location in Central Park downtown, there is a farmers market on the east quad on campus. The East Quad Farmers Market is only available Wednesdays during fall and spring quarter from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The farmers market is a popular destination for students. Jessica Hall, a senior international relations and history double major, enjoys the market and the sense of togetherness it provides.
“It really brings the community together,” she said. “And I like that there’s a lot of fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables.”
Senior Michelle Panzica agrees with Hall and said it adds to the character of the town.
“I love the atmosphere,” said Michelle Panzica, a cell biology major. “It’s sunny and there are people and families out. It just warms my heart.”
What started as a handful of sellers has grown into a nationally ranked marketplace. Loved by students and community members alike, the Davis Farmers Market has grown more and more successful with each progressive year. Since its start 34 years ago, the market has expanded greatly in both size and fame, and there is no end in sight in the upcoming years.
JENNIFER SCOFIELD can be reached at email@example.com.