Editorials

Farmers market in Turlock correctly moving back to its roots

Emotions run high at Turlock City Council meeting

A contentious Turlock City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, left the city council voting 4-1 in favor of having the nonprofit and for-profit farmers markets work out a way to colloborate. (Garth Stapley/gstapley@modbee.com)
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A contentious Turlock City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, left the city council voting 4-1 in favor of having the nonprofit and for-profit farmers markets work out a way to colloborate. (Garth Stapley/gstapley@modbee.com)

If you like happy endings to local political war stories, keep reading.

Turlock Certified Farmers Market, having thrived in three years of self-imposed exile at the Stanislaus County Fairground, will return to its downtown roots this season. Hundreds, if not thousands, of devoted supporters have reason to applaud and pat themselves on the back for keeping alive the embodiment of a community success story, threatened though it once was by greed and bruising political warfare.

Three years ago, the nonprofit farmers market valiantly tried to fight off a hostile takeover by a for-profit outfit that had contributed a combined total of more than $24,000 to the campaigns of then-Mayor Gary Soiseth and the four other council members. City meetings, some lasting many hours, turned ugly before the exasperated nonprofit team found a way to end bloodshed with a truce of sorts, conceding the coveted downtown spot by relocating to the county fairground a mile away, with intent to compete head-on.

Customers voted with their feet, flocking to the fairground while the for-profit outfit, despite apparent political victory and the downtown advantage, fizzled.

A lesson might be learned here about the danger of taking on unpaid folks with inordinate devotion to their cause. This wasn’t just a loose-knit bunch of veggie lovers who might bend like a shriveled celery stalk, or snap like sugar peas. When threatened by a well-connected foe, they rose to the occasion, took the high road and set up down the road, in another spot.

And they loved that spot at the fairground, with its ample shade, easy parking and public restrooms. But the fairground, as good as it’s been, was never home. People never stopped asking during those three years when the Turlock Certified Farmers Market would come back downtown, said Jeani Ferrari, the only founding board member still serving on the board.

“We were grateful beyond measure” for “the biggest gift” of the fairground, Ferrari said. “But that was a destination farmers market, and we were designed to be a downtown farmers market.”

Last summer, City Hall let produce vendors and other booth merchants set up downtown during the two weeks when the county fair displaced the farmers market from the fairground; a trial run for a possible reunion, if you will. While thousands from throughout the county poured into the fairground, loyal customers of the Turlock farmers market headed downtown. Perhaps, people thought, healing was possible after all.

A few weeks later, in the November election, then-Councilwoman Amy Bublak became Mayor Amy Bublak. At Tuesday’s council meeting, a crowd cheered as city leaders unanimously approved the farmers market’s return to downtown. She said, “Welcome back. We’ll see you out there.”

The Turlock Certified Farmers Market will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays from May 4 through Sept. 28. It will be on Main Street between Palm and Center streets. You know, downtown.

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