Elizabeth Studebaker started scoping out spots in Midtown for a farmers’ market three months into her job. The director of the Midtown Business Association’s first pick was the parking lot adjacent to the Sacramento Native American Health Center on J Street, due to its central location and visibility.
Studebaker has since secured the prime space between 20th and 21st streets, has hired a group to manage the market and has 45-plus vendors on board for the first Midtown farmers’ market in recent memory.
It’s been about a year of detailed background planning work, but in only 12 days, that hard work will be realized when Midtown’s farmers’ market opens.
“It’s definitely one of the most positive things I’ve worked on since being in Sacramento, and I feel 120 percent like we’re doing the right thing,” Studebaker said. “Farmers’ markets are very important for providing fresh vegetables, healthy food and education to a community, but it’s equally important in creating a gathering space where residents and friends can meet up every weekend.”
The market will be held every Saturday, year round, rain or shine, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2020 J Street (between 20th and 21st), next to the Sacramento Native American Health Center, and will feature a healthy variety of locally-grown and certified-organic produce and specialty products from regional farms and small businesses. The first one will be held April 27.
There will be fresh fruit and vegetables, artisan cheese, grass-fed beef, eggs, baked goods, honey and oils and other specialty items and prepared foods, according to the MBA.
This isn’t Studebaker’s first time getting a farmers’ market off the ground, however. At her previous job in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, she reopened a farmers’ market that had been closed for several years within five months.
So when she came to Sacramento in January 2012, Studebaker was surprised that the heart of the city – which is home to about 30,000 people – didn’t have one to call its own. There are only two grocery stores, Studebaker pointed out, and plenty of people who don’t drive to grab food.
“We’re just providing a more convenient shopping option for residents who don’t live in walking distance to those stores,” she said, referring to the Safeway on 19th Street and the Grocery Outlet on Capitol and 17th. “We’ve positioned ourselves right in the heart of Midtown and will be accessible to people from every direction.”
Some of the vendors include Feeding Crane Farm, Luck Dog Ranch Beef, Petaluma Creamery, Sugar Plum Vegan, Rosa’s Bakery and more.
While the Midtown market will differ slightly from others in the area, Studebaker said it will still remain true to its roots by being dominated primarily by local agriculture. The majority of the vendors will be farmers, she said, and there will be live bands performing during the event. But nothing too loud or obnoxious, just ambiant, low-key and festive music like bluegrass and jazz, Studebaker said.
"Because Midtown is young and vibrant and diverse and creative, we wanted to make sure we had some infusion of that personality into the market," she said.
Eventually Studebaker hopes to incorporate an arts and crafts area to feature local artists.
Managing this market is BeMoneySmartUSA, a local nonprofit organization that specializes in training kids age 8 to adult in financial, business and career education programs. Market Manager Marie Hall, who helps run the organization, answered a few questions about the market and the nonprofit managing it:
Sacramento Press: What can people anticipate experiencing at this first Midtown market? How many vendors are there approximately, and will there entertainment?
Marie Hall: The Midtown Market will have over 45+ vendors on opening day that includes organic fruits and vegetables grown locally and throughout California. At this market you will not only be able to shop for all your produce, but you will have the opportunity to buy specialty gourmet food items that includes fresh made pastas and sauces by the Pasta Queen, a wide selection of Humus flavors and Mediterranean foods from Zena Foods, excellent raw food choices that are dairy free, gluten free and with the best cashew cheese you’ve ever had from the Cultured Kitchen, an excellent selection of fresh juices provided by Get Peel’d, A wide variety of artisan cheeses from Petaluma Creamery and fresh goat cheese and ricotta from Jollity Farms, additional global flavors from India from Ocean Beach Foods. Farmers will provide seasonal fruits and vegetables introducing new things throughout the season. Lindcove Farms will have a wide selection of citrus, oranges, grapefruits (pink and white), manderins, lemons, etc. Specialty vegetables grown by Feeding Crane Farms includes orange eggplant and banana beans! This is a family friendly event that offers a wide variety of foods for the whole family to eat while meandering between booths, and/or to take home for later. Every week we will feature local musical artists who perform for patrons from 8:30-12:30. The market is open every Saturday 8:00 am to 1:00 pm all year round –rain or shine! On opening day we will have the Railflowers and the Paper Dolls performing their excellent repotoire of soulful harmonies. Also for the kids, there will be a balloon twister onsite making their favorite animals and/or fruits!
SP: How will this market differ from other farmers’ markets around town?
MH: The Midtown Farmers market differs from other markets in the area because it offers a variety of food choices for local foodies and shoppers. It is meant to be a community event and a destination for families to enjoy on a Saturday morning. Patrons are not only offered an opportunity to shop for local produce as they would at any other market, where farmers grow what they sell, but they also have an opportunity buy gourmet specialty foods made by the vendors too, and they get to enjoy a day of tasting, eating and listening to music. We also offer patrons the ability to include their whole family when they come to the event – which includes FIDO. This type of market takes on the feeling of a European Market right here in Sacramento. It’s managed by BeMoneySmartUSA who offer this format for all their markets in the area.
SP: What’s the parking situation like? Is it just street parking around the area?
MH: Parking is always a question when it comes to anything downtown. There will be standard street parking, but many of the local businesses that have parking have made their lots available for farmers market parking along with a parking structure that offers market hours parking for the farmers market at .50 cents. Signs will be posted in areas where Farmers Market Parking will be available.
SP: How many other farmers’ markets in the Sacramento area does BeMoneySmartUSA manage?
MH: BeMoneySmartUSA manages four other local Farmers Markets in the area to include the Farmers market at the Sunrise Mall on Saturdays 8 am – 1pm, the Carmichael Park Market on Sundays from 9 am -2 pm, and two midweek markets at the VA Hospital at Mather on Wednesday mornings at 9:00 am – 1:00 pm and at the Fair Oaks Plaza Park on Wednesday evenings from 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm. Besides Midtown, there are two more midweek markets opening and another Saturday market. UC Davis Medical Center at the Hospital will open on May 16 on Thursday evenings 3:00-7:30 pm, Folsom Plaza Farmers Market in Folsom opens May 25 on Saturdays 8 am – 1 pm, Swanston Park will open on Tuesdays from 3 pm – 7 pm on June 11.
The markets not only provide a wonderful venue for the community but also supports local youth programs that teach financial life and career skills. Community youth have the opportunity to work with BMSUSA to get jobs at the markets in sales, customer service, hospitality, journalism, event coordination, and administration – they “earn while they learn” – it’s a teaching business where youth have the opportunity to develop skills, earn a wage but also provide a personnel resource for our vendors and farmers.
SP: Future plans?
MH: This market will not only host a weekly event, but additional events within the event will include cooking demonstrations, educational seminars for growing and caring for herb gardens, canning demonstrations and much more. Annual events include the the “Tomato Taste Off” where farmers compete for the best tomatoes in several categories – patrons get the fun job of tasting and voting for the juiciest, most beautiful, meatiest, and sweetest in the heirloom and other types – which happens in late August in the height of tomato season, in September we also have our Salsa Contest that offers locals to compete with each other and the vendors for the best salsa – patrons get to taste and vote for their favorites—YUM – In October we always have our Farmers Market Pumpkin Patch – where families can buy their decorative pumpkins and their kids can paint them while Mom and Dad shop – During the holidays we offer kids crafts and fun stuff to do. Quarterly crafters and local artisans will be invited to participate in the market for 4 weeks in a row for even more options. People interested in participating should contact BeMoneySmartUSA at email@example.com and/or call us at 916-484-7000 to receive an application and the annual calendar of dates. Additional events will include co-sponsored events with the Midtown Business Association for the Beerfeast and many more. By signing up for our newsletters, patrons can get weekly announcements and coupons to redeem at the market and find out who the entertainment will be for that day, and learn about the vendors. EBT will be accepted soon and many of the vendors will accept credit cards. This year we will also be hosting a health fair where local health professionals will be out to meet and greet the public and share information. We will also be offering special hours for our local Chefs to buy produce and arrange pre-orders and pick ups with their favorite vendors. This will be rolled out the beginning of May