Farmers market will open Saturday in downtown Modesto

04/03/2014 4:49 PM

05/02/2014 3:52 PM

Susan Christensen has the salad course covered for a Saturday gathering in downtown Modesto.

The Modesto Certified Farmers Market will launch its 36th season with an early spring bounty that includes various greens from Christensen Farms, just north of Riverbank. Other vendors will offer strawberries, asparagus, and other fresh and prepared items along 16th Street between H and I streets.

Christensen, who grows vegetables on three acres with her husband, David, has been taking part for about 15 years in this increasingly popular way of marketing the area’s bounty.

“I think it’s the freshness of the produce,” she said. “And it’s a fun destination. They have good food – just lots and lots of every food you can imagine.”

The market will run from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m Thursdays and Saturdays through Nov. 20. In past years, the Thursday hours did not start until May, but that was changed to allow more vendors to take part, manager Marie Uber said.

Opening day will feature music, cooking demonstrations and drawings for $5 gift certificates for use at the market. It also will have those Christensen Farms greens: lettuce, arugula, kale and gourmet salad mixes. Look for melons, squash and other produce from this farm as the season progresses.

Modesto’s was among the region’s first farmers markets when this trend emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as was the year-round Merced Certified Farmers Market. On various dates in the coming weeks, dozens of other venues in and near Stanislaus County will open their 2014 seasons.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture listed 8,144 farmers markets across the nation last year, compared with 1,755 when it started keeping track in 1994.

They sell a tiny fraction of the food Americans eat – most goes through regional and national distribution networks – but supporters say they can help farmers boost their income while meeting consumers.

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