Merced County’s mobile farmers market debut deemed a success

rgiwargis @mercedsunstar.comNovember 18, 2013 

  • Mobile Farmers Market Schedule

    Sunday – 11 a.m. to 2p.m., Santa Fe Street and Winton Way, Winton

    Sunday – 3 to 5p.m., lot at Ashby Road and Beachwood Drive, Merced

    Monday – 2 to 5p.m., Planada Elementary School, 161 S. Plainsburg Road, Planada

    Tuesday – 2 to 4p.m., Le Grand Union Elementary School, 13071 E. Le Grand Road, Le Grand

    Wednesday – 8 to 10a.m., Farmdale Elementary School, 100 Winder Ave., Merced

    Wednesday – 1 to 3p.m., Marks Elementary School, 1717 Valeria St., Dos Palos

    Thursday – 2 to 5p.m., Golden Valley Health Center, 847 W. Childs Ave., Merced

    Friday – 3 to 5p.m., Snelling-Merced Falls Elementary School, 16099 N. Highway 59, Snelling

    Saturday – 9a.m. to 1p.m., lot in front of Santa Nella Mobile Home Park, Highway 33, Santa Nella

— The biggest glitch the owners of Merced County’s new mobile farmers market encountered at its rollout event this weekend was running out of wild potatoes.

The locally grown potatoes weren’t the only items flying off the shelves of the 30-foot fruit and vegetable truck on its first day, said co-owner Don Bergman. “The most popular things were fruit, like pluots and persimmons,” he said Monday.

The $177,528 yearlong contract for the mobile farmers market named Make Someone Happy was approved by the Merced County Board of Supervisors last month. More than 250 people showed up to its Saturday launch at the Golden Valley Health Center in Merced.

“We really didn’t expect a lot of sales the first day, but we did pretty doggone good,” Bergman said, noting that the day’s total sales were about $500.

The truck, donated by Modesto-based Delta Sierra Beverage, will tour rural parts of Merced County selling fresh fruits and vegetables from area certified farmers market vendors.

Make Someone Happy made stops in Winton and the Franklin-Beachwood district in Merced on Sunday, Bergman said, and the feedback from the community was positive.

“People were saying we need something like this in the community and thanked us for doing it,” Bergman said. “Yesterday we were out at two locations and people who stopped by there were saying we need more people to know about it in our areas.”

Planada Elementary School District Superintendent José L. González spread the word about the truck’s stop in Planada on Monday to about 800 families via email, text messages and phone calls.

“The schools are the hub of the community and pipelines of all communication,” González said. “I just felt it was important to provide the opportunity to our community.”

González said there’s a lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables in Planada, along with a lack of awareness about healthy eating.

“A lot of times it’s easier in an impoverished community to get junk food at the corner store, and this gives people another access point,” González said. “We’re surrounded by such an ag-rich culture and community, however, (and) many times we don’t take advantage of the fruits of that labor.”

Bergman said there are still some kinks in Make Someone Happy that the need to be worked out.

“We’re kind of learning as we fly on how we can improve things,” said Bergman, who owns the nonprofit with his wife, Nancy Young Bergman. “To this point, what hasn’t worked is getting the milk, cheese and eggs we want to carry on board.”

Make Someone Happy will begin carrying dairy products once they can be stored at the recommended temperature of 41 degrees.

Bergman said there was a misconception about who can buy from the mobile farmers market.

“We’ve had a lot of customers that were concerned about whether they can buy from it,” he said. “It looked like it was strictly for people on EBT and low income and it’s not. It’s open to anybody.”

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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