“Fresh local produce” is the phrase that South County farmers want Morgan Hill to get used to.
With the spring season in full swing and a spanking-new farmers market, there is now more than ever an opportunity for residents to take advantage of the best produce the area has to offer.
The Cochrane Plaza Farmers Market opened last month in the parking lot of the Cochrane Plaza shopping center, and boasts 32 registered vendors with the potential for 50, with a variety of fruits, seasonal vegetables, flowers, honey and a farmers market favorite: fresh-popped kettle corn.
Cochrane Plaza Farmers Market was in the works for a year before it made its debut March 15 as a market started by farmers, and run by farmers.
Johnna Borello the market manager and part of the Borello family of Borello Farms in Morgan Hill, wanted to start a market in the middle of the weekday to give people more options besides the typical Saturday market.
“People have football, cheerleading … Most markets have a weekday and a weekend market, but Morgan Hill being a local town in the Bay Area is the only one that doesn’t seem to have a mid-week market,” said Borello.
Part of the Bay Area Farmer’s Markets Association, Borello surveyed people in the Cochrane Plaza a year ago to gauge community interest. They found the community would enjoy having a mid-week market; this one runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays year-round.
The other farmers market in town, located on Third and Depot streets, starts May 12 this year and runs through December. Borello Farms sells at that market as well, and has been selling at farmers markets for 25 years.
Gilroy’s farmers market – located on 7th Street between Eigleberry and Monterey Road – opens on Mother’s Day, May 13 and is open each Sunday at 10 a.m.
“We don’t really look at other associations as competition. Everyone tries to help everyone else out,” she said.
This market will also feature products mostly from Watsonville, Gilroy and Morgan Hill, with a policy that farms must be within a 100-mile radius. (The farthest vendor so far is from Monterey.)
“Local is local. If you’re driving four hours to get here, you should be in another market,” said Borello.
She said that “local” also means supporting the local farmers who have fresh quality produce from short distances away.
“Our farmers won’t survive without the community supporting them. If our farmers go, then our fresh produce goes and then we’re buying from somewhere far away, where your produce could be sitting in storage for a week before you even eat it,” she said.
Farmer Pete – as he’s known – of Field of Greens farm in San Juan Bautista, said the farm got ‘recruited’ by Borello.
“They want only the best quality produce for Morgan Hill because these people deserve the best,” he said.
On the most recent Thursday, Farmer Pete was behind the stand selling cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and salad greens. And, with summer vegetables almost in season, he said customers can expect to see tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini very soon.
Across the aisle sat Rosie Medina of Medina Berry Farms in Watsonville greeting and chatting with customers.
“We’re looking forward to the summertime when more people can go. Summer time is the best time for us,” she said.
The farm sells raspberries, blackberries, golden yellow raspberries and strawberries year-round, with expectations of both organic and conventional blueberries.
Cochrane Plaza Farmers Market has little bits and pieces that may be different than the typical produce stands under tents. The market is creating an atmosphere with live music, a free kids corner of childcare for parents as they shop, a weekly raffle for a $25 gift card to the market and seasonal visits from special guests, such as the recent Easter Bunny. The Bay Area Farmer’s Markets Association also has a monthly cooking class geared toward the younger crowd to combat child obesity issues and ‘teach our younger crowd on how to eat healthy and support our local farmers.”
One of the challenges so far, says Borello, is getting the community to realize the market even exists.
“I think the biggest problem is not that people don’t want to come here, it’s that they don’t know it’s here. We get people every week that say ‘I didn’t even know this existed,’ ” said Borello.
For Penny Ciraulo of San Martin, she saw the market by its signs advertised on Cochrane Road.
“I drove by and saw the signs earlier in the week. There aren’t that many vendors but it has a nice selection with the potential to grow,” she said. “I think they should be open later for the working people to take part.”
Another factor so far has been the weather: with an unusually wet March and April, not all of the 32 vendors are choosing to show up since their product could get ruined.
“I was on my way to the dentist and I saw the market and thought ‘what is that?’,” said Elena Miller, of Morgan Hill who had just purchased a bag of broccoli for $2. “Now that they’re here on Thursday’s it’s wonderful. This is the perfect space.”
For Allison Rolling, who works in the same plaza in Morgan Hill yet lives in San Jose, the location is highly convenient.
“It’s a nice lunchtime stop,” said Rolling. “It’s better than going to the grocery store.”