Sonoma’s Tuesday night Farmers Market has been revamped for 2017, thanks largely to input from a City Council subcommittee, composed of Amy Harrington and Gary Edwards, tasked with recommending changes. Harrington describes the many changes as being aimed at improving sales for the participating farmers.
The first Tuesday night market of the season opens at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 2. The market will end Sept. 26 – about a month earlier than in previous years, when the organic greens would typically be on offer Tuesday evenings through October.
There will continue to be music every week – but in the intial weeks, the location will alternate weekly between the center of the horseshoe lawn and Grinstead Amphitheatre.
The total number of vendors this year will range from 50 to 55, said Chris Welch, manager of the nonprofit Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers’ Market (VOMCFM), which contracts through the City to operate the market. The vendor number is down slightly from 2016.
Only three food trucks were invited to participate in 2017 – the Kenwood-based Tri Tip Trolley, the Girl and the Fig’s “Fig Rig” and the Cotati-based Croques & Toques. These trucks will only be at the market every other week, when they will be located behind City Hall.
“We suggested moving the food trucks to the back so that the food trucks are not the face of the market,” said Harrington.
On the alternating weeks, there will be no vendors whatsoever behind City Hall.
“We’re hoping to re-focus our patrons’ attention on the farmers, which is the primary purpose of the market,” said Welch. He expects about 20 farmers to participate in 2017, about a third of which are based in Sonoma Valley. Two new vendors in the “farmer” category this year include an olive oil vendor and a new meat vendor.
The total number of hot prepared food vendors will be down only slightly this year, according to Welch.
Welch said that he doesn’t expect the food lines to be any longer than in prior years.
“But it’s hard to guess,” he said. “We are experimenting and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”
Among the hot prepared food vendors are Rancho Viejo, Uber Spud, E Saan Thai, Mommy’s Yammys, Divewalk Café, Aunt Betty’s Corn Dogs and Vineyard Crust pizza. The Plaza ice cream shop, Sweet Scoops, will return, selling cold comfort across the street from its storefront.
The process of which vendors are chosen to participate in the market has often been a hot – and sometimes contentious – issue.
Farmers are signed first, and most are accepted, according to Welch.
“After we place all the farmers, we allocate the remaining stalls to a carefully selected assortment of artisans, and packaged and prepared food vendors,” Welch said. This year’s artisans include Jungle Maiden Jewelry, Prairie Girl Botanicals and a new local jewelry maker called Opalescent Soul Creations.
Beer and wine will also be returning, with one beer vendor and one wine vendor each week.
“Because we have many interested vintners and brewers that are very local,” market director Dardon said in a press release, “we will be alternating weeks between two different beer vendors and four different wine vendors.
“This is the fairest arrangement the VOMCFM could come up with, and it gives patrons more choices and more variety,” said Dardon.