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September 30, 2009 > Hayward farmers' market

Hayward farmers' market

By Simon Wong
Photos By Courtesy of Marin Farmers Markets

Hayward Farmers' market relocated from Main Street to Watkins Street (between B and C Streets) next to City Hall Plaza in May 2009. It is open every Saturday.

"Much has happened since it moved. The community and shoppers have responded positively," stated Brad Burger, Marin Farmers' Markets, the umbrella organization that operates eight farmers' markets around the Bay Area.

There are three [Marin Farmers' Markets] in Alameda County (Hayward, Newark, Oakland Grand Lake), five in Marin County (Civic Center on Sunday and Thursday, Novato, Fairfax) and one in San Francisco (Stonestown).

Some organizations have 30-40 markets around the Bay Area but Marin Farmers' Markets focuses on working closely with communities which, in turn, helps the farmers.

The organization's aims to promote a viable food system, educate the public about the nutritional and economic benefits of buying fresh and locally-grown food directly from farmers, to bring producers and communities together and support regional, sustainable producers by providing them with direct access to consumers.

Marin Farmers' Markets is a mutual, non-profit, member-based organization with more than 400 members to whom Burger and his colleagues are accountable. Each Saturday, Hayward Farmers' Market has about six organic and 35 conventional farmers, 10 food purveyors (cooking food/ingredients), 11 sellers of pre-packaged food, seven rotating artisans, one local commercial business and three non-profits which includes Friends of Hayward Library who sell used-books every other week. In the last few weeks, two more organic producers have joined.

"Conventional producers might have signs stating they don't spray or use pesticides but there is a difference between conventional and organic farming," added Burger.

The market has grown since relocating from Main Street. Hayward Public Library uses the Friends of Hayward Library stall to promote services and programs every other week when the Friends are absent. There are 21 new vendors and an additional staff member to manage the market.

Cal State East Bay would like to establish a farmers' market on campus. Burger and the university are considering ways to engage the institution with producers. Ideas range from a shuttle service between campus and Downtown Hayward to joining a distribution program, which delivers produce to restaurants, schools and non-profits, to some of the farmers visiting the university once or twice a week.

Hayward Community Gardens has provided volunteers and helped raise awareness of the market and it benefits. New banners and equipment have contributed to the market's development at its new location.

Each farmers' market, including Hayward's, now has its own logo. Previously, they were all branded as Marin Farmers' Markets which confused many visitors. Hayward has two community volunteers who manage the information booth and engage with shoppers every weekend.

Women, infants and children (WIC) checks are accepted. Marin Farmers' Markets recently received a grant for point-of-sale technology to accept food-stamp EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards. The EBT card can be swiped in return for 40 tokens ($40) to purchase food only.

"Looking ahead, we want to make communities aware of the value of supporting local agriculture. It's not just about organic produce but buying more fruits and vegetables instead of eating unhealthy fast foods. We encourage food purveyors to source ingredients from the market and wish to offer more choice for our shoppers," explained Burger. "We'd like to introduce agricultural tours, which some of our other markets have, tasting for schoolchildren, scavenger hunts and raise awareness among the young of the agriculture's importance and significance. Hayward Community gardens will hold workshops for local youth.

"We also need to increase outreach to WIC and food-stamp customers to let them know they can shop at our markets including Hayward Farmers' Market," he added.

Farmers' markets are also about incubating small businesses. A dozen such businesses are members. Every weekend, Burger receives enquiries about membership. Artisans are encouraged to participate. Such markets are ideal for local artists to showcase their talent and for schools and non-profits to promote their services.

Market organizers must deal with the waste and rubbish left behind. Marin Farmers Markets has applied for a grant to purchase composting bins, recycling containers and re-usable shopping bags that can be given to visitors. As the market grows, waste management will prove more challenging.

Growth can be restricted by location, configuration and seasonality. Growth can create problems for the flow of shoppers. Identifying the highest and best use of space throughout the year is essential.

"We're always trying to improve the market and raise its profile. It's an on-going process," concluded Burger.

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