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August 17, 2004 > Flea Markets, Farmers' Markets and More

Flea Markets, Farmers' Markets and More

by Praveena Raman

Recently, on a warm Sunday in July, I was shopping at the Irvington Farmers Market. The market was packed with people of all ethnicities buying a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, some not seen at local supermarkets. Stopping at a fruit stand, I was eyeing the lush white peaches and nectarines when I heard a lady next to me ask the owner of the stall "What is the pick of the day?" "White nectarines and peaches," was the reply.

Curiously I asked her if she was a regular customer and if she always asked that question. Shelley Martinas introduced herself and smiled "Yes, I always ask that question. That way I always end up buying the best produce for that day. Sometimes I visit this stand on Saturdays at the Centerville Farmers Market and if I miss it there, I come here on Sundays." I learned that she grew up in Fremont, but now lives in Hayward but loves to come here for her Farmers Market shopping.

Open air markets, such as this one, fill the summer months throughout the United States. Due to the fair weather in California these markets often operate throughout the year. On the East coast, some of the open air markets move indoors for the winter months. There are more than 5,000 flea markets, swap meets, farmers, antique and collectible markets and special events, with an estimate of over one million vendors and one hundred million annual shoppers in America. Some of these markets are blatantly "cheesy" while others are showcases for fine local craftspeople and farm produce.

The most popular open air market worldwide is the Flea market. Flea markets have been around for centuries. The origin of the term "Flea Market" is difficult to trace but it has been thought of coming from the French term "marche aux puces" which literally translates into "Flea Market", named after the parasites of the order Siphonaptera (or wingless bloodsuckers) that were often found in the upholstery of old furniture brought out for sale. Historically, second-hand goods were sold in flea markets but these have given way to include new goods often arts and crafts items or things made at home.

In the book U.S. Flea Market Directory, author Albert LaFarge says, "Today's American flea market is a modern version of a phenomenon that has endured throughout history in all civilized societies - wherever there is a high concentration of people, there will be market days when they assemble for the exchange of goods and services." In ancient Greece the market was known as the Agora, in Rome the Forum and in Israel they were present in the Temples. At present times the flea market is a place where anyone who wants to sell, merchandise, products, items or services that are legal, to the general public can rent some space to do so. These merchants are known as vendors and make up a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry.

Flea markets are the starting place for entrepreneurs where people can start a business without large capital and without long-term commitments. Usually a variety of goods from toys to crafts to food and unusual artifacts are found in flea markets. Sometimes collectors or hobbyists find some rare things in the flea markets. For example, coin collectors often find rare coins sold inexpensively as often people selling these items do not have great knowledge of their true worth.

Farmers markets and antique fairs are specialized kinds of flea markets. The farmers markets have a variety of farm produce from eggs to vegetables to fruits and other produce. Sometimes fairs and festivals like the Festival of the Arts in Fremont or the Hayward Zucchini Festival have flea markets within them.

The simplest form of a flea market concept is the garage sale. When a garage sale is organized by a Home-owner's association (HOA) or a neighborhood association, individuals pay the association a small fee. In these cases, advertisement of these sales is often handled by the HOAs. These garage sales then take on the form of a true flea market.

With the advent of the information industry, often called the era, a very successful virtual flea market called Ebay came into existence. This flea market spans the globe and is accessible as a business venture for entrepreneurs in all the countries world-wide. Initially, when Pierre Omidyar was seeking some venture capital for his fledgling online flea market, the concept was not very captivating to the venture capitalists at Benchmark Capital. But, four weeks after reluctantly agreeing to invest in Omidyar's business, the venture took off and was valued at about 20 million dollars. Ebay has thrived as a flea market through the dot com bust and sells a variety of artifacts from collectibles like beanie babies to used textbooks, cars, motorcycles, computers, time-share holiday homes, golf tee-off times and much more.

The Tri-City area has many open-air markets. Below is a listing of some of the markets and upcoming flea market events:

Flea Markets:

  • Fremont:

    • Ohlone College Flea Market: The Ohlone College Super Flea market is held on the 2nd Saturday of every month during the year at the Ohlone College Campus, 43600 Mission Blvd, Fremont, CA 94539 in parking lots E and H. The market is open 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The market comprises of vendors selling home-made crafts, jewelry, food, tools, gift items, toys, household supplies, collectibles, used items, cosmetics, electronics and food. Proceeds from the market augment programs at Ohlone College. For more information call (510) 659-6285

    • Kennedy High School Flea Market: The Kennedy High School Flea Market is held on the first Saturday of every month (except January) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 39999 Blacow Rd., Fremont, CA 94538. The Flea market is organized by the school's PTSA and benefits the programs at the school. For more information contact Flea Market Coordinator Bob Sterling, 510-657-4070 x 27150 or go to the school's website at,1871,694-201697-1-106252,00.html

  • Hayward:
    Chabot College Flea Market, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 3rd Saturday each month throughout the year, 25555 Hesperian Blvd.; about 300 vendors. Proceeds benefit student activities, clubs and scholarships. For more information call (510) 723-6918

Farmers' Markets:

  • Fremont:

    • Fremont Centerville Certified Farmers' Market: at Bonde Road and Fremont Blvd. Every Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., June through November. Admission is free. For more information call (800) 897-3276

    • Fremont Irvington Certified Farmers Market: at Bay street and Fremont Blvd. Every Sunday 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. year round. Admission is free. For more information call (800) 897-3276

  • Newark:

    • Newark's Old Town Farmers' Market: at 7015 Thornton Ave, Newark. Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. May through November. Located at Thornton Ave & Magnolia Street in Old Town Newark (Next to the Mexico Tortilla Factory!). For more information contact Janet Drews, 510-744-1000. Mailing address - 6066 Civic Terrace Newark Ca. 94560

  • Union City:

    • Union City Certified Farmers' Market: at Cesar Chavez Park, Smith & Watkins Street. Every Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. April through November. Besides fresh produce this market organizes a summer concert series. For more information go to or by email at

  • Hayward:

    • Hayward Certified Farmers' Market: at Main & B Street, Hayward, California 94901. Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. For more information contact: Neal Tadlock (800) 897-FARM

  • Milpitas:

    • Milpitas Certified Farmer's Market: Milpitas Town Center, Mervyn's parking lot, Milpitas, California 94520. Wednesday, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Sunday, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Year Round. For more information contact: Vince Scalise/Sara (800) 949-FARM

Upcoming Fairs and Festivals:

  • 40th Annual Niles Antique Fair & Flea Market: on August 29, 2004, 6 a.m. until 4 p.m., Downtown Niles. For more information email or call (510) 742-9868.
    Hayward Zucchini Festival: Kennedy Park, 19501 Hesperian (at Bartlett), Hayward August 21-August 22, 2004 10am-7:30pm. Tickets $2-$5.For more information call 510-264-9466.
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