Farmers market seeks to fill niche in southwest Santa Rosa

  • Libby Erving from Bloomfield Organics, right, helps Michele Mowry purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at the new Southwest Santa Rosa Farmers Market along Standish Avenue in Santa Rosa on Thursday, June 5, 2014. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

The new southwest Santa Rosa farmers market opened quietly Thursday night, but organizers are hoping it's the start of something big.

The market, which is managed by the California Parenting Institute, was started in part to bring locally grown produce and farmed goods to neighborhoods where many people have limited incomes and limited access to markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

Held in the institute's parking lot on Standish Avenue, the market, like others in the county, accepts WIC and CalFresh electronic benefits transfer cards. But through Market Match, a program funded by private donors and grants, it also will provide as much as $5 extra to shoppers who purchase food at the market.

The program will run as long as funds are available.

"We felt that there were parts of our community that weren't served by farmers markets and we wanted to help change that," said CPI's Tiffani Montgomery. "We are committed to making it easier for anyone to get local produce and vegetables at affordable prices."

Montgomery said organizers sought out local farmers and other vendors to work the market, a lineup she said would change in part from week to week. Because the market is committed to accepting CalFresh debit cards, formerly food stamps, the farmers selling at the market must be certified through the County of Sonoma.

"I've shopped at FoodMaxx, and the produce to be honest is not very good or fresh and it's still expensive," said Danielle Divine, 35, of Santa Rosa, who heard about the market at a local CalFresh office.

"I've been to other farmers markets, but it kind of feels like they look down on us," Divine said. "This one is welcoming."

On opening night, the small market was anchored by four fresh-produce farmers who sold everything from strawberries to kale, mixed greens, cherries and squash.

The farmers said they welcomed the chance to get their produce to a wider range of people.

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