Modesto's new farmers market awaits OK for street closures

May 21, 2010 

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Visitors browse at the new Gallo Center Farmers Market near the Gallo Center for the Arts on 11th Street, in Modesto, Calif., on Saturday, May 15, 2010.

(DARRYL BUSH/DBUSH@MODBEE.COM)

Dueling farmers markets in downtown Modesto won't be competing for shoppers this weekend or next.

The new Gallo Center Farmers Market, which held its inaugural event a week ago, will be shut down until June 5 while it works to get the necessary approvals to close 10th Street, between I and H streets, each Saturday through November.

Marion Bogdanich, executive director of the Gallo Center Farmers Market, said closure of the street for an extended period requires City Council approval. He is confident that will come in time to reopen on the first Saturday in June.

Bogdanich said the new farmers market opened to positive reviews from its shoppers and vendors last weekend. Besides drawing a big crowd, he said the initial event was so popular with vendors that more want to participate.

The first Gallo Center market had 24 vendors, Bogdanich said, and he has 10 or so more signed up. There's room for about 50 vendors, and Bogdanich expects to quickly fill all those spots.

The original Modesto Certified Farmers Market will continue to operate as usual today under the shady canopy of tree-lined 16th Street, also between I and H streets.

The two farmers markets is the result of a split among the original market's organizers and vendors. Launched in 1978, the original market increasingly has focused on selling nonproduce items, some breakaway farmers claim. they say that prompted them to organize the Gallo Center market, offering only food products and flowers. Some also were upset that the original market's longtime manager Steve Christy was let go.

Bogdanich has said the new market wasn't meant to drive the original market out of business. But George Kosmas, president of the Modesto Certified Farmers Market, sees the rival event as a "clear attempt to destroy our market."

Although some shoppers attending the competing markets a week ago expressed concern about the split, others wondered why both groups couldn't work together to form one expanded market.

Many said they visited both venues just to see what each had to offer and what the differences were. For some shoppers, the competition seemed like a good thing.

Walter Nicolau of Classic Wine Vinegar Co. Inc., a vendor who moved to the Gallo Center, said last week that there are multiple markets in many cities and insisted Modesto's population could support more than one.

Vendors from both markets told Bogdanich there were plenty of shoppers to go around during the first week of head-to-head competition, he said.

Farmers markets are places for customers to have direct contact with farmers and buy fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods. Many markets also sell craft items, such as handmade jewelry.

Ceres, Turlock, Oakdale, Riverbank and Patterson also have farmers markets.

Bee City Editor David W. Hill can be reached at dhill@modbee.com and 578-2336.

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