Growers push for evergreen Belmont farmers market

Farmers markets have long been a summer tradition around the Peninsula, turning long, warm summer days or eveningsinto community gatherings, business meetings and an opportunity to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

But the growing demand for fresh organic produce and a desire for growers to have a constant outlet for selling goods has turned some markets, such as the city of San Mateo’s, into year-round events.

Tonight, the Belmont Planning Commission will entertain a request from the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association for a use permit allowing the Belmont market to go on every Sunday of the year from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., instead of the current June to November schedule.

“There’s absolutely a demand, both on the consumer end and the growers’. Those that belong to our association are always looking for additional venues to sell what they grow,” association director John Silveira said.

Silveira said he represents approximately 300 growers from around California.

The association has already made steps toward a year-round market.

In April, the group began working directly with the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board to lease the Caltrain parking lot for use by the market. The recently signed agreement allows for market operation all year.

The market uses approximately 18,600 square feet of the parking lot on El Camino Real south of O’Neill Avenue and hosts 50 vendors on site at any given time.

“Anytime that we can provide an outlet for California farmers to sell their crops, it’s worth it,” Silveira said. “We’ll never be as convenient as a grocery store, but the store will never be as fresh as we are or provide an environment like we can where people can meet and talk with the people growing the produce.”

The farmers market is also a fertile ground for new business ventures. Chamber of Commerce President Ron Denman said that after partnering with the association this year to put on the markets, they’ve been able to recruit a number of new members.

Although he’s concerned about inclement weather bogging down markets during the winter, Denman said these markets could become a constant positive event for Belmont residents to attend.

“There’s a great tendency to shop locally when it’s available, so when it’s not available, people will go elsewhere, and it’s easy here on the Peninsula,” he said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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