April 13, 2021 – Watsonville is welcoming a second Farmers’ Market starting next week, which will take place at Ramsey Park every Tuesday afternoon from 2pm to 6pm. And while, as with every farmers’ market, it will serve as an opportunity to purchase fresh produce directly from local farms, the new El Mercado has a larger vision behind it.
The Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley (CHT) is a local non-profit foundation that works tirelessly to foster health, wellness and equity for all community members of the Pajaro Valley. This goal takes many forms, from programs to partnerships, to grantmaking and events.
One such program is called the Food, Farming & Policy Health Council, part of a network of “hyper-local policy councils all across California,” explains Annie Puckett, Programs Manager at CHT. In 2018, the Health Trust, in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, started the local council in Pajaro Valley to address food insecurity issues and help residents make healthy choices, easier.
“The goal is to increase access to food,” she says, and to get business and agriculture to work together here in a place where both are huge industries. But the reality is such that in a community where produce is very abundant, it can actually be hard for local residents to get their hands on it.
While diving into that project, one thing that came up as a step to improving access here was to add a second farmers market to this area. And while the intention was to start that market last year, the pandemic put things on hold. But next week we can finally celebrate the fruition of all that intention, when El Mercado finally kicks off.
Puckett says that “Our ace, our expert” market manager Jesus Madrigal, who also manages the downtown Watsonville Farmers’ Market, is overseeing El Mercado. It will offer produce from local farms, and pre-prepared food from various rotating vendors, all of whom have taken time to read the Health Trust health goals and promotions and will be tailoring their offerings to suit.
Puckett says, “This will be the second market in Watsonville, but it will be different because every element will have an emphasis on health.” The Health Trust is doing all the programming, including live cooking demos planned for June with Covid protocols ease up a bit. This market will also offer wellness screenings and be a place for community resources for healthy living, such as VeggieRX—a free produce “prescription” program.
“We live in a very abundant area, surrounded by fresh, healthy produce, but the truth is, many residents and families do not have easy access to these,” said DeAndre’ James, executive director for CHT. “In addition to offering healthy produce and prepared food, El Mercado will also work in collaboration with local partners to include resources that will support and reinforce healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle.”
As time goes on and restrictions loosen, the goal is to become a very family-oriented space, featuring elements that would be appealing to children and to simply be a fun environment for everyone.
Marketing & Communications Manager Nelly Otsu explains that while the market layout is very conscious of current Covid protocols, it can still provide a safe space for families and residents to come out in person to get healthy food, and can also serve as a safe activity. “Fresh air, outdoors, a little bit of that social interaction” that we are all craving right now.