gmhTODAY 30 gmhTODAY April June 2020s | Page 56

Local Farmers' Markets Grow Community Written By Jordan Rosenfeld R esidents of Morgan Hill and Gilroy can step out on a Saturday afternoon to a local farmer’s market and purchase farm fresh fruits, veggies, flowers and foods with ease, but that wasn’t always the case. The health-conscious craze of the 1970s created an urge for organically-grown produce, but gas shortages meant people couldn’t afford to drive to Watsonville or Hollister for their fresh produce, according to Gail Hayden, Director of the California Farmers’ Markets Association (CFMA), which runs the Morgan Hill farmer’s market. By 1977, then-governor Jerry Brown signed The Direct Marketing Act, which allowed California farmers to sell their fresh produce direct to consumers at locations approved by the Department of Agriculture. Farmers mar- kets began to boom because local downtown associations and chambers of commerce saw farmers’ markets as ways to add value to their towns. “It was a method of returning to the original idea of going to market,” Hayden said. “Every city across Europe has a market street.” Morgan Hill Farmers' Market One Saturday in 1987, former teacher’s aide and long-time Morgan Hill resident, Virginia Sellers, ran into the Morgan Hill Downtown Revitalization Manager, who convinced her to start a fledgling market with a handful of farmers. Her father had sold produce when she was a child, so she felt a connection with the idea. With the support of the CFMA, 56 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN Salvadore Ascencio, Executive Director T&C Farmers Markets Sellers grew it into the bustling, popular market it is today, managing it for over 30 years, until 2019. “We started out with ten or fifteen farmers, now we have between twenty-five or thirty. Then it just took off from there. I really put my head to it and focused. I tried to make it as hospitable as I could and create fun things,” Sellers said. “Virginia has been awesome for the market,” Hayden said. “She stuck with it, wind, sleet and hail.” In today’s market residents can not only purchase the freshest fruits and veggies from relatively local farmers, but also prepared foods, such as tamales, hummus and other dips, fresh fish, kettle corn and bakery items and artisan crafts. Open year-round, the produce will vary depending upon what is in season; though for popular items, such as strawberries, once the Watsonville growing season is done, they’ll pull from farmers a bit farther away, such as Oxnard or San Diego. Hayden said that while some older folks may have the experience of tasting fruit off the farm direct, farmers’ mar- kets provide a bridge to this kind of experience for people who are used to shopping mainly at the supermarket. Access to truly tree- or vine-ripened fruit is also a luxury for many, Hayden said, explaining that by the time a piece SPRING 2020