For a five-month period from early May through late September, fresh produce takes center stage in Ripon.
Hosted weekly, the Ripon Farmers Market serves as a fundraiser for Garden Joy, a community-centered garden that both teaches youngsters about sustainable growing practices and benefits local food banks through donations.
The market runs each Thursday evening, with the 2023 dates from Thursday, May 4 through Thursday, Sept. 28. Hours are 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the market is set up in the parking lot at Garden Joy, 929 W. Main St., Ripon.
Sarah Darpinian is Executive Director at Garden Joy while Heather Crooker is the Market Manager for the weekly Farmers Market.
“The market is a fundraiser for Garden Joy,” explained Crooker. “All of our vendor fees go to the garden.”
Opening the market in 2019, Darpinian said that’s the year that Crooker joined the board of Garden Joy and, as a market vendor with E&H Farms out of Oakdale, specializing in gourmet mushrooms, she was already often attending the market.
“She offered to take over managing the farmers market, she has made it bigger and better,” Darpinian explained of board member Crooker stepping up. “She had a lot of vendor contacts and she started managing it in 2021.”
Garden Joy shares space in Ripon with Studio Joy, a yoga studio, so it is that parking lot that fills up with booths, activities and shoppers throughout the summer.
“We think of it of not just having a farmers market but creating an experience,” noted Crooker. “There’s live music, a beer garden, local artists on the front lawn, one week there might be painting, another week sculpting, water colors and, in the garden every other week, we have some sort of class.”
The two agree it’s “not your typical” farmers market, as it serves up plenty of interactive activities for all ages in addition to the fresh produce, herbs, weekly pop-up food vendors and more.
This year, since the first market is scheduled on May 4, it coincides with ‘Star Wars Day’ – May the Fourth be with you – so they are planning to have a variety of Star Wars characters on hand to pose for photos with attendees.
Several vendors also indicated they will have some Star Wars specials for the market’s opening day.
The 2023 market is shaping up to be a good one, the two said, as there are 42 total vendors signed up and they will once again have rotating food trucks each week offering items from sushi to burritos. The weekly pop-up food vendors have traditional fare ranging from hot dogs to tamales and many families make an evening of it, eating, shopping and enjoying a family outing at the market.
And while the booths are set up in the parking lot, there are also activities in the garden and a large lawn area with sprinklers that are often turned on in the heat of the summer, providing a refreshingly cool spot for kids to run and play. Classes offered every other week will include poetry, cooking and more.
SONS Farm Fresh, Way of Life organics, E&H Farms mushrooms, Christine’s Garden, Rancho Azul blueberries and Drake’s Micro Greens are the main produce vendors attending the weekly market while specialty goods range from sourdough to soaps, candles to cutting boards. There are also rotating vendor spots for clothing, jewelry, houseplants and other items, so each week has a little something different.
“We have a lot of volunteers the day of, to help in the parking lot,” explained Crooker.
There is also a schedule of when vendors are to arrive, since they have to strategically organize them in order to allow for an easy flow of foot traffic.
Strand Ace Hardware, with stores in Escalon, Ripon, Modesto and Manteca, is the sponsor for this year’s Ripon Farmers Market.
“For Garden Joy, I think the market has really brought awareness to the fact that Garden Joy exists,” said Darpinian. “We started in 2018 and we lease the land (for Garden Joy) from Studio Joy; we’re a non-profit and Garden Joy grows and donates about 2,000 pounds of food per year, we donate to food pantries.”
The summer market is well-supported by area communities, with many residents in the 209 setting aside at least one Thursday evening during the summer to head to Ripon.
“We get people from Turlock to Lodi, a lot from Ripon, Escalon, Manteca,” noted Darpinian.
More information is available on the Garden Joy website, with market updates provided frequently throughout the five-month run. Visit gardenjoyca.com to learn more.
“I hear from a lot of vendors that this is one of their favorite markets,” added Crooker. “They can bring their kids and hang out, it’s just a really family friendly event.”