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Farmers market pulls out of downtown & you know why
Dennis Wyatt
Dennis Wyatt

People, they say, vote with their feet.

It is why the farmers market that had been operating for the first two weeks of this month at Library Park in downtown has switched to The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley on the plaza adjacent to the lake near the AMC Showplace Theatres.

On Tuesday of this week there were four farm booths — DePalma Farms, Delta Farms, CK Strawberries and Jacob Produce — along with eight crafters, six food vendors, four merchandize vendors, and eight specialty vendors offering everything from honey and brittle to baked goods and humus at the new location at Orchard Valley.

It underscores the future Orchard Valley has in playing a role as a town center for Manteca south of the 120 Bypass in terms of being a gathering place as well as the challenges downtown has in duplicating the same.

Although no one wants to say it, here goes: Orchard Valley as privately owned property can address issues with the homeless in a slightly more proactive manner under the law.

And while the homeless have every right to hang out in the gazebo at Library Park and have been doing so in the past year or so in a respectful manner they aren’t a good mix if one is trying to stage a family-orientated event.

To be clear there was no unsavory incident per se such as one several years ago that prompted organizers at the time to debate whether to move elsewhere. City park crews do a Herculean job day in and day out making sure the park is presentable. And the Manteca Police in working with the homeless have eliminated the real serious issues for the most part.

Still you can’t blame people for being a tad unnerved by odd behavior or by those with appearances that don’t exactly dovetail into a family excursion to a farmers market. You may contend people are shallow but then it ignores the fact people do have a right to certain expectations. And one of them is to be comfortable.

This is far from a death knell for downtown, quite the contrary.

If Orchard Valley can be used as a venue to establish weekly low-key community gatherings whether it is an evening of midweek music or a farmers market it will help build a demand and an expectation for such events that in turn will generate the numbers of participants needed to support them.

Poag — the developer of Orchard Valley — wants to add apartments and condos to create a valley version of the San Jose Santana Row experience where there is a built-in base population that can help support additional dining, entertainment, and retail. Plans by Mike Atherton and his partners to build 450 apartments just east of Bass Pro Shops will add to the synergy.

It is exactly what the new downtown zone for the central district is designed to create.

The drawback to the farmers market pulling out of downtown is it takes away a weekly use. But let’s be honest. The turnout has been constrained by the distractions.

When the farmers market was rolled out this year, unfortunately two farm vendors did not show up — one due to illness and the other due to a last minute change in their commitment. But the crowd that showed up were one of the biggest ever. People want the experience and it has to be anchored by farm booths.

But even so it is clear that people as a whole are more comfortable at Orchard Valley.

One way to bring a farmers market back at some point to downtown may be a weekend endeavor on Saturday or Sunday at the Manteca Transit Center using the plaza that — surprise, surprise — was designed for that purpose. 

It is a high profile location with pleasing aesthetics. It also wouldn’t be battling for parking space with weekday ACE commuter trains when service starts.

The tradition and the tie to Library Park are tough for many of us to ignore. 

But to make it work there needs to first be a courtship of newcomers and relative newcomers to Manteca to get them to fall in love with downtown in large enough numbers to squeeze issues out.

Why not find some way to harness the transit center for midweek mini concerts alternating between school bands, conduct once a month art shows, and other such cultural events? When the weather is inclement it could go inside.

As it stands now everyone should be pulling for success at the farmers market taking place Tuesdays from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at Orchard Valley through the end of August. There are smaller scale similar events at Orchard Valley on Fridays from 5 to 8:30 p.m. that features an outdoor market, with a wine and beer garden as well as vendors. The weekly event dubbed Friday Night Live offers low-key music.  Then on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jacob’s Produce anchors a low-key market.

And when it comes to downtown perhaps the city might bite the bullet and hire a “consultant” out of its economic reserve fund to organize and stage low key events involving the arts at locales they control downtown — Library Park and the transit center.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email