The pandemic has brought about a great many changes in our communities, some for worse, but amazingly, some for better. One of these is that farmers’ markets, which were already a popular feature, are now booming.
During the height of the pandemic, going to the farmers’ market became a way of shopping for healthy, delicious produce while still being able to enjoy an activity in a safer outdoor setting. People could also socialize easily, seeing friends and neighbors while maintaining the necessary social distance.
There was another great development as well, according to Catherine Barr, executive director of the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets.
Since the start of the pandemic, “We saw more kids and parents at the farmers’ markets,” Barr says. “It was great to see the next generation learn about eating healthy and eating right.”
Now in its 45th year, MBCFM is the oldest and largest farmers’ market organization on California’s Central Coast and is continuing to fulfill its mission of bringing the best in organic, local and sustainably farmed foods to the public.
Of course, MBCFM’s markets had to adapt during the pandemic to continue serving their customers, and many of those changes will remain in place, Barr says. These measures include social distancing and having hand-washing and sanitation stations available for customers throughout the markets.
But now that most pandemic restrictions have been lifted in California, customers are once more welcome to bring their reusable shopping bags to the markets, Barr says. And plans are in the works to bring back some of market activities, such as chef demonstrations and book signings by local food and cookbook authors.
Another change that came about last year was the shuttering of the MBCFM Monterey Farmers Market at Monterey Peninsula College, the result of MPC’s pandemic closure. That market moved to Del Monte Shopping Center and is now proving to be a local favorite.
The result is that there are now two markets being held at Del Monte Shopping Center — the Monterey Farmers Market on Fridays, 8am-noon, and the Del Monte Farmers Market on Sundays from 8am-noon. The Monterey Market operates year-round while the Del Monte Market takes place May through September. Both can be found in the parking lot behind California Pizza Kitchen and Yama Sushi.
“It’s been going gangbusters,” says Barr, who has had great feedback both from customers and vendors at Del Monte. “My hat is off to the shopping center management team.” She notes that the shopping center is allowing MBCFM to use the space at no charge, and in addition is graciously supplying security and traffic barriers for the market:
One of the desirable aspects of having farmers’ markets at Del Monte Shopping Center is that there is lots of space, making it easier for vendors as well as customers, with plenty of parking space available.
Business has also been brisk at The Barnyard Farmers Market, now in its 15th year in Carmel at The Barnyard Shopping Village. This seasonal market, which Barr calls “small but mighty,” is held from May to September.
“We have a good loyal base — it’s a feel-good market,” she says, noting that people come from as far away as Big Sur and Carmel Valley to shop there, on Tuesdays from 9am-1pm.
And of course, the year-round Aptos market at Cabrillo College remains a special favorite for shoppers from around the Monterey Bay. That market, held on Saturdays from 8am-noon, offers a great diversity of produce, flowers and artisan products.
All four markets feature the best in local, organic and sustainably farmed products. Depending on the market you shop at, you can find pastured grass-fed meats and poultry, sustainable fish, oysters, handcrafted cheeses, locally produced olive oil, fresh pasta and gourmet sauces, organic juices, artisan breads and baked goods, organic honey, mushrooms, farm fresh eggs, flowers, potted plants, seedlings, herbs, and a delicious selection of certified California-grown fruits, vegetables and nuts.
MBCFM has won multiple awards in recent years, including Best Farmers Market in California, Santa Cruz County, and is ranked second in the United States by the American Farmland Trust.
The pandemic has been challenging for MBCFM as it has been for everyone, but the organization is coming back stronger than ever, especially as more people look to healthy food sources as a way to improve their overall health and well being.
“We’re always moving forward,” says Barr. “We kept the doors open and kept farmers working.”
MBCFM recently debuted an updated website that makes it easier to find information. Visit it at the link below!
Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets • (831) 728-5060 • montereybayfarmers.org