PHELAN – According to many visitors of the Phelan Certified Farmers Market, the weekly gathering of farmers, vendors and shoppers is drawing the attention of many in the High Desert.
“We drove all the way out to Phelan to check out the market and we weren’t disappointed,” said Lena Franklyn, 49, from Apple Valley. “There was huge variety of quality produce, lots of things to look at and eat. Next time, we’re going to try one of those Ding-Bat Bars.”
Tanya Sheehan, a longtime resident of Phelan, said she had her doubts about the farmers market when she first heard that it was coming to town last year.
“In the past, we’ve had people say that they’re going to start something and then nothing happens. Or people just lose interest,” Sheehan said. “But this farmers market has taken off and it just celebrated its one-year anniversary.
Sheehan said she believes some of the “drawing factors” to the market are the availability of healthy food, word-of-mouth, “amazing strawberries,” fresh produce, the social atmosphere, “nice people” and the organization skills of Rowena McDermott, the market’s manager.
McDermott said she started the market for many reasons, including her desire to bring local, farm-fresh produce to the community, to schedule a market during a convenient time and for the area to have its own local certified market.
“When we first started the market, the response was unbelievable. We had some farms that were breaking sales records here that they had set down the hill,” said McDermott, who also owns Moonstruck Farms. “We have some great vendors and a lot of community support. But the meat of our market are our regular visitors. They’re the ones who pay our bills.”
McDermott said she hasn’t done a tally, but on average the market sees about 250 visitors, which visit at least 15 craft or food vendors, and four to eight farmers depending on the growing season.
“We have a wide variety of vendors, including farm and candy vendors, and the famous Tamale Guy,” McDermott said. “We also the famous Ding-Bat Bar — a nutrition bar made with fresh ingredients. They’re like a granola bar and they taste great.”
According to McDermott, the market also offers a place for artisans and musicians to display their talents. Once a month, the High-D Boys bring their special brand of music and comedy.
McDermott said she wants the market to be more than just a place to buy and sell, but a location of education where visitors can learn about healthy eating through cooking demonstrations and the exchange of recipes.
Earlier this month, McDermott said the market was awarded the EBT Market Match Grant through the USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program and
McDermott said through the $3.7 million grant, the statewide farm-to-fork incentive program expects to connect nearly 240,000 food-insecure shoppers with 2,200 of the state’s small farms, stimulating $9.8 million in fruit and vegetable sales.
Market Match doubles low-income shoppers’ nutrition benefits at participating farmers’ markets and allows them to purchase even more healthy fruits and vegetables. So if a customer spends $10 of their allotted benefit, they are given an extra $10 in market tokens or vouchers to spend on fruits and vegetables.
“The support from the Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District and the community has been very instrumental to our success,” McDermott said. “We have a lot planned for the market and this is just the beginning. We have no limits of what we can do.”
The Phelan Certified Farmers Market is open from 2 to 6 p.m. Mondays at the Phelan-Pinon Hills Community Services District office, 4128 Warbler Road in Phelan.
By Rene Ray De La Cruz from vvdailypress.com