By Margie M. Palmer | SDUN Reporter
San Diego has some of the most exquisite weather in the country, so it’s not surprising that area farmers have a harvest season that spans longer than most. The city’s numerous weekly farmers markets provide these farmers opportunities to sell their wares and integrate with the community. Farmers markets in Hillcrest and North Park have added two new programs to extend their community involvement in their weekly markets.
The Hillcrest farmers market, open on Sundays from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Lincoln Street at Normal Street, offers approximately 125 weekly vendors who sell fruit, vegetables, arts, crafts, pre-prepared foods, beverages and more.
Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) Marketing and Communications Director Lisa Weir said she believes this market stands out because it has that “true community feel.”
“When you go to the Hillcrest farmers market you feel like you’re part of something,” she said.
Weir said the HBA recently hired farmers market regular Jamie Weisman to blog regularly about the market’s current and upcoming happenings. Weisman’s blog, Market Girl, can be found on the Hillcrest farmers market website.
“We thought to ourselves that from a communications standpoint that it would be great if we could replicate that [community feel] in a virtual communication space so as to mirror what happens every single Sunday,” Weir said.
“She’s a foodie but someone who isn’t out of touch. She’s in her 20s, loves to cook and she even teaches children’s cooking classes in the area,” Weir said. “We thought she’d be the perfect person to expand the conversations that were happening on Sunday and bring them online.”
Feedback thus far has been positive.
“I think at first we wondered… who is going to read this, but as it turns out there are a lot of people who are reading and commenting,” Weir said. “People are e-mailing us directly asking if they can contact Market Girl directly. She’s someone who knows a lot about food and farmers markets and her work is accessible and applicable to a lot of different folks. This blog has been a great way to integrate the market-feel and to expand and mirror that every day online.”
North Park’s weekly market, held Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 32nd Street at North Park Way, has expanded into something beyond vendors and patrons by working with local schools. SD Weekly Markets, which took over running the farmers market approximately 18 months ago, wanted to make the market a little more family focused.
“We realized a great way to do that would be to form partnerships with local schools. All of these families already buy fresh produce, but now, if they do their shopping at the farmers market we will make a quarterly donation to the local school of their choice,” SD Weekly Markets representative Catt Fields White said.
For each dollar spent at the farmers market, vendors will provide the purchaser with one ticket. Patrons can then drop those tickets into a bucket with a participating school’s name on it. White said at the end of each quarter, five percent of the value of tickets dropped for each school will be donated to that school’s Parent Teacher Association.
Although the program is still fairly new, she said, approximately $600 has been donated thus far.
“The schools have been great about getting the word out on this program,” White said. “Everyone seems very excited about it.”
District Three City Councilmember Todd Gloria, whose district includes North Park and Hillcrest, said that District Three markets are not just retail outlets, but community gathering points and social destinations.
“The farmers market movement has grown exponentially in popularity and success over the course of the last decade,” Gloria said. “I love that Mission Hills’ market is personal and somewhat small; Hillcrest’s is booming and attracts San Diegans from other neighborhoods; and others are similarly appropriate for their neighborhoods. Beyond these benefits is the fact that the markets bring local goods to San Diegans, which strengthens our connection to our food and reduces environmental impacts.”