Weaving through the crowd during San Luis Obispo’s Farmers’ Market may get a little easier this summer. The Thursday night tradition will expand its borders to include Morro Street between Higuera and Monterey streets from July 1 to Sept. 30.
The San Luis Obispo Downtown Association joined the San Luis Obispo County Certified Farmers’ Market Association in a plan to provide space for up to eight new vendors. The Downtown Association proposed the expansion to its board of directors after community members expressed a desire for more produce at farmers’ markets, Thursday Night Promotions Event Coordinator Diana Cotta said.
“(Farmers’ market) is an event that we’re constantly looking to build upon even though it’s been in existence for 29 years,” Cotta said. “It’s important to be cutting edge and listen to the needs of the public.”
Local residents have requested a more organic approach to produce, she said, since many San Luis Obispo supermarkets carry more organic produce than Farmers Market. The new local vendors will address this issue, bringing in specialties including grass-fed beef, sheep’s milk ice cream and soft cheese, hydroponic greens, heirloom produce and vegetable and fruit juices. Grass-fed buffalo and edible flowers are no longer anticipated specialties, as these vendors cancelled their participation for unknown reasons, Cotta said.
The Downtown and Farmers’ Market associations will treat this three-month expansion as a sort of trial run, Cotta said. She said they hope for the change to be successful and may continue it after evaluating the benefits when the trial is finished.
“We chose July through September … because there’s typically a wider variety of produce,” Cotta said. “It’s a different spin … we’re hoping it will go well and (we’ll) be able to continue it.”
Before any plans for the expansion, Morro Street was reserved for entertainment on Thursday nights. The entertainment will be moved to the end of the produce section. With a certified farmers’ market, Cotta said, a contiguous format must be utilized; entertainment cannot be in the same section as the produce.
Although the main focus of Farmers’ Market is the produce, downtown businesses on Monterey Street are also looking forward to the foot traffic the expansion may bring.
“I think it will benefit us in the long run,” Coalition store manager Josh Martin said. “We’re already kind of hidden from the main strip so during Farmers’ Market it does get busy for us, but not really, just because everyone stays on that main strip. So if it moves on Morro Street … we’ll definitely get some more business. I’m pretty stoked on that.”
RetroFit, a used, vintage and consignment store at the corner of Monterey and Morro streets, has hoped for more foot traffic on Thursday nights, but has not yet seen results, according to sales associate Kristin Melancon. Many people simply walk past the store after using the parking structure behind the business, Melancon said.
“They don’t really stay on Morro, so it’s not really bringing business in the store,” she said. “But with Morro right there, (the expansion) might really help.”
San Luis Obispo residents are also anticipating more room to explore during Farmers’
“Farmers is always pretty crowded, so sometimes I’m not in the mood to go park and then wait in line for all the good food,” Cal Poly alumnus Patrick McDonough said. “I think it’s good they’re adding more space.”