“A Sense of Connection” at the Farmers Market

This is the first in a series featuring vendors at Petaluma Farmers Markets, from growers and produce vendors to artisans and other artists.

Kelly Smith, manager of the Petaluma Farmers Market, laughingly introduces herself as the market mom.

Smith is a busy person these days. There is the year-round Tuesday morning market at the Petaluma Community Center, 320 N. McDowell Blvd., from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., in addition to the Saturday afternoon market at Walnut Park, Fourth and D Streets, until November 19. The hours are from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

And – stop the presses and mark your calendars – the old downtown Wednesday night market has a new day and a new location. The popular Family Night will now take place from 3-7 p.m. Thursdays, July through September, at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds.

Petaluma Farmers Markets is part of the Farm Community Events Farmers Markets, which operates 10 farmers markets in Marin and Sonoma counties. Markets accept CalFresh (also known as food stamps), Smith said, and through a collaboration with Petaluma Bounty, offer Market Match, a $1 for $1 (up to $10) match for customers from CalFresh.

Smith talked about the growth of the Tuesday market over the past decade: moving from place to place until, she said, two things happened. One was the Petaluma Foodies Facebook page, where locals who appreciate quality food can share their findings. It now has more than 7,000 members.

The other, surprisingly, was the pandemic.

“When COVID hit,” Smith said, “I saw we might be closed, so I started doing curbside orders.” But then the state of California said farmers’ markets, like grocery stores, were essential. By then, the weekly market had moved to the front parking lot of the community center, where it was more visible. Smith credits City Manager Peggy Flynn for “seeing what the community needs” and negotiating to keep the market there.

The market, of course, is an outdoor event, a place where people can at least see each other and talk with friends, albeit masked and from a distance during the early part of the pandemic.

“They came in droves,” Smith said. “A lot of people were doing errands for others, and no one was paying attention to the queues. It was a success. The way I describe a hit is when the salespeople are so busy they don’t have time to talk to each other – or complain to me.

The beauty of a farmers market, Smith has come to appreciate, is its flexibility.

“For sellers, it can be where you want to have your business forever, or it can be a stepping stone to bigger business, or you can do them simultaneously,” she said. “It’s important for farmers because they put their products in the hands of people. And that’s important to the community and the sellers because there’s a sense of connection.

Whether it’s getting a weekly loaf of French bread, indulging in an exotic mango chutney, exploring new items such as radishes for French breakfast, looking forward to a lunch What a Chicken or reward yourself with a bouquet of fragrant candy peas, or pick up a gift. for a friend or family member, the market is always enjoyable. There’s the thrill of reuniting with old friends and making new ones, as farmers’ markets are friendly and sociable. And of course you buy local and support farmers.

James V. Payne