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Farm fresh is appeal of 120 produce stands
Stephanie Vandepol checks the stock of berries at Denises Farmers Market. The fire raging outside of Yosemite National Park has impacted customer traffic, but the spot is still popular with locals. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

Denise Eastburn isn’t expecting to see the kind of traffic that she normally does on Labor Day weekend.

With a wildfire raging outside of Yosemite National Park and closing the park’s northernmost entrance, Eastburn – the owner and operator of Denise’s Farmer’s Market on E. Highway 120 in Ripon – knows that the big Bay Area crowds that flock to the mountains for the holiday weekend aren’t going to be passing by.

And that impacts business. Right now is the time that people heading to the mountains for one last weekend getaway before the fall season, and that means thousands – if not more – of cars passing by her business on a daily basis.

But with local farms supplying the bulk of her inventory, Eastburn has been able to create a steady following of local customers as well that stop in for just about everything – willing to go out of their way to support the small ventures.

“There are a couple of things that I appreciate about doing this – I love the people that come in here, and I love helping the local farmers,” Eastburn said. “I grew up in the country and I know the kind of hard work that goes into it, and I love being able to support them.

“And then there’s providing a place for our employees to have a job. I just love what I do, and we try to have that come across to the customers through our business.”

Corn. Berries. Melons. Peaches. There really isn’t much that’s grown locally that Eastburn doesn’t have a hand in promoting inside of her shop.

One entire wall is dedicated to jarred fruits and vegetables, preserves and spreads – nearly all of which come from local companies and Northern California “Mom and Pop” outfits that she hooks up with at a trade show every January in San Francisco.

Looking for a fresh fruit pie? Call an hour ahead and it’ll be piping hot and ready for you when you get there. Craving something like freshly prepared corn chips? One of Eastburn’s local vendors makes them in 10 different flavors, and they’re one of the best-selling items with people who stop in on their up to the Sierra for the weekend.

“We’re open year-round, and we have some fruits, like strawberries, for 10 months out of the year,” Eastburn said. “When we can get them from local farms, we go down to Watsonville and get them for our customers. And when this season wraps up we’ll move into our holiday baskets, which were really popular for us last year.

“We want to offer what our customers want, and that’s farm fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Denise’s Farmer’s Market is located at 16569 E. Highway 120 in Ripon – 2 miles east of Jack Tone Road. The business is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. through 7 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. through 8 p.m. For additional information call (209) 599-2171.