Reedley farmers market harvests health, community joy

Reedley College Farmers Market begins, bringing with it healthy food, introductions to fitness and a sense of community

Unveiled on February 19th, 1959, Clyde, Reedley College’s beloved Tiger Statue, will receive much needed care. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published April 1, 2024  • 
10:00 am

REEDLEY – With springtime upon the Central Valley, the orchards of Fresno County are filled with green, the days are filled with sunshine and soon the Reedley College parking lot will be filled with fresh produce and family-friendly fun.

The Reedley College Farmers Market kicks off its 10-week run on April 4 with vendors brought together by event partners in the Sierra Kings Health Care District (SKHCD), Fitness Quest Health Club, Fresno Street Eats and the Greater Reedley Chamber of Commerce. Two years into its revival driven by SKHCD, the farmers market is dynamic and thriving, SKHCD CEO Chinayera Black-Hardaman said.

“Reedley College has done a beautiful job of not just setting up tables of produce, but really creating the market into an experience that attracts more of the community and increases their access,” Black-Hardaman said.

At the forefront of SKHCD’s mission is preventative health care, and so the district partnered with Reedley College in fall 2022 to pilot a farmers market, something that Black-Hardaman said had not been in the community for some time. 

That previous farmers market, which Black-Hardaman said “did OK” but was not as successful as more recent iterations, helped lay the groundwork for everything the market currently offers.

Alongside fresh and local fruits and vegetables, farmers market attendees can find their other favorite foods and ingredients like honies and butters from the 559 Honey Company and olive oil and balsamic vinaigrettes produced by Reedley College. 

In the past, the market has had booths with fresh flowers, jewelry vendors and young Reedley College entrepreneurs testing out their business ideas and selling products, as well as informational booths from community outreach organizations like the Marjaree Mason Center. 

By bringing together a wide variety of vendors and attractions for residents, Black-Hardaman said that the farmers market is successful in its overall mission to promote healthy foods and exercise because while someone may stop by for one specific thing, they’re likely to pick up other fruits and vegetables they see at the market that they otherwise would not have purchased.

Black-Hardaman said farmers markets are considered a best practice by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for promoting public health and healthy living because of how they foster an environment that creates community camaraderie. 

“Folks tend to come out to farmers markets, socialize, see neighbors and old friends, … (and) it’s also got a lot of proven benefits of community building, community engagement and so on,” Black-Hardaman said. “The farmers market really is a comprehensive approach to addressing Sierra Kings’ strategic priorities of eating fresh, getting active and checking in.”

Something for everyone

Black-Hardaman said that some of the extra things the farmers market has incorporated that support the SKHCD mission include free fitness activities led by local business Fitness Quest Health Club and food preparation demonstrations led by the college to show how to incorporate fresh produce into meals.

The intention with the demonstrations is that sometimes people may not buy produce at a farmers market not because they don’t like it, but because they don’t know what to do with it, Black-Hardaman said. With the demonstrations, people can learn the best ways to cook kale or bok choy. 

The partnership with Fresno Street Eats will also bring food trucks to the farmers market so that people not only have more food options but also have the chance to grab dinner while at the market after work without worrying about getting home right away to cook.

If that wasn’t enough, the farmers market will also have entertainment, with live music scheduled for certain weeks. Local reggae group Ceiba is performing on April 4, and Fresno-based band Brown Sugar is playing on May 9. Musicians from Reedley College are also scheduled to perform. 

Every week will also come with a theme, Black-Hardaman said, and the market’s opening day will celebrate International Carrot Day. 

Black-Hardaman said that all of these offerings trace back to the knowledge that farmers markets are “most successful when there’s a little something for everybody.”

“(It) brings people out that may not be particularly looking for produce, but when they’re there, they tend to purchase it,” Black-Hardaman said. 

In recognition of the growth the farmers market has gone through and the value it provides to the community, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded SKHCD with a grant of nearly $115,000 that will help sustain six seasonal farmers markets through 2026, Black-Hardaman said. 

Black-Hardaman said that as CEO of Sierra Kings who worked with Reedley College to “reroute” the farmers market into the community, the best thing about the market for her is watching it blossom.

“My favorite part of the market is seeing it thrive and seeing all of the strands of the market — the entertainment, the produce, the fitness — seeing all of those strands be woven together to create a community activity that promotes healthy lifestyles,” Black-Hardaman said.

Beginning on April 4 and going through June 6, the farmers market will run every week from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. It is set up in Reedley College’s parking lot B, which is off of Manning Avenue. Vendors accept most forms of payment, although EBT and WIC benefits are not able to be accepted at this time.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter