Axel Youngdale eyes the plastic ball as it hovers on a column of air. He grips the plastic bat tightly, mouth closed, eyes narrowed and smacks the ball into the inflatable jump house. He bursts into laughter and flings himself into the jump house to get the ball.
Youngdale’s aunt, Kathryn Lidoff, waits for him to finish having fun before getting back to the produce at the SLO Certified Farmers’ Market.
The t-ball game, jump house and face painting help keep Youngdale entertained during the shopping trip, Lidoff said.
“It’s great. I don’t have to convince him to come because he loves the jump house and face painting,” Lidoff said. “I also get him to try new fruit and vegetables he would never eat at home.”
As the newest farmers’ market in the county, SLO Certified Farmers’ Market gives households another time and location to shop for fresh food and produce in a family environment.
The market, held on the corner of Tank Farm Road and Long Street in the Kennedy Club Fitness parking lot every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, is the twenty-third farmers’ market in the county and has approximately 20 vendors per week.
“Every market in this county has a little different culture to it,” avocado grower, David Righetti said.
Righetti’s family-owned business, Hass Avocados, has been growing avocados in Edna Valley since it originally raised and sold beef cattle in 1967. It has been selling food at San Luis Obispo farmers’ markets on Thursday nights and Saturday mornings for years.
Righetti said that it is always nice to have another market to sell at because of the busy schedule most farmers keep during the week. A Sunday afternoon market allows Righetti and other farmers to sell locally while reaching a different crowd that might not have time to attend other markets.
Keeping money within the community is an important goal for many of the markets in San Luis Obispo. Farmers can earn more by selling their products to individual buyers instead of selling to large grocery store chains such as Albertsons or Ralphs. Consumers know exactly where the produce came from and can taste samples to know that they like what they’re buying.
“There was a need in the community,” marketing manager, Nick Ryan, said. “Mostly for local community members that didn’t want to deal with the inconvenience that other markets presented, but still wanted to help support local farmers and keep money circulatinglocally within the community.”
Even with 23 markets in the county there is little to no competition over customers and many welcome the new addition.
“For us there is zero competition,” Administrator of the SLO County Farmers’ Market Association, Peter Jankay, said. “We hope they can tap into another part of the community who might not otherwise go.”
The SLO County Farmers’ Market Association operates at five different locations during the week in Arroyo Grande, Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. Jankay said they are a mutual benefit, not-for-profit organization and that their goals are similar to other markets in the county.
Sunday will be the twentieth edition of SLO Certified Farmers’ Market. There has been an increased number of booths since it began on March 28, and Ryan expects Kennedy Club Fitness to support the market while it continues to expand. Canopies are set up and provided to vendors; admittance and parking are free as well.
Founder and market manager, Moez Bensalem, said he wants to see the market develop into whatever the county has a need for.
“I’m doing this mostly for the community,” Bensalem said. “I want you to know this is your farmers’ market to benefit from.”
Bensalem’s experience in the farmers’ market community has made the development of SLO Certified Farmers’ Market easier during past several months. His knowledge came from years of selling for his company, Baba Foods, at a variety of markets in town and from the first farmers’ market he founded in Pismo Beach. Later he began making his food in the kitchen of Kennedy Club Fitness’ clubhouse. After renting the kitchen for two years, he thought the location would be the perfect setting to start his second market.
“Farmers’ market, fitness club, it’s a win-win,” Bensalem said.
His goals of giving the county another market to attend, providing a family friendly atmosphere and keeping money and produce circulating within the community have worked well so far, Bensalem said. He said he hopes to attract more buyers and sellers while continuing to spread awareness to the newest market in San Luis Obispo.
“It is more relaxed,” Vicki Crawford said while shopping. “Farmers don’t have time to interact with you at other markets. It’s almost like ‘here you go, who’s next?’”