Farmers markets foster learning, support local businesses

Clara Fesslmeier
Clara Fesslmeier

As a school bell blares through Ohlone Elementary School, students rush from the classrooms, heading towards the school’s own farmers’ market with cash clutched in their hands. Freshman Leilani Chen, who attended Ohlone, said she remembers buying produce at the school’s Thursday farmers’ market after school.

“The farm had organic materials, so they would sell whatever fruit was in season like plums, lemons and apples,” Chen said. “They would also sell honey and plum jam.”

According to Halo Lynch, a 2021 Paly alumni, farmers’ markets like those at Ohlone help support growers of locally-sourced produce.

“Being able to help the community give people a place where they’re not maybe buying from a ginormous corporation, or they know that their food is not having any pesticides on it is great,” Lynch said.

Chen said while it was fun to purchase fresh produce, students at Ohlone also learned money management skills from the farmers’ market.

“Parents would bring cupcakes and cookies, and they would be sold to students,” Chen said. “It helps students learn how to handle money.”

The after-school Ohlone farmers’ market is just one example of many farmers’ markets in Palo Alto, which build local communities while supporting local businesses.

Tian Mayimin, the owner of Little Sky Bakery, said farmers’ markets were instrumental in starting her business.

“I showed up with one basket of bread at the first farmers’ market because that’s all I could bake by myself, and it sold out in like 20 minutes,” Mayimin said.

Lynch said working at the famers’ market with his family for around 10 years helped him develop business skills.

“Every Saturday, I woke up at 6 in the morning and told my dad to pack up the car and we’d head out there,” Lynch said. “I’d get to talk to customers. I worked a register (and) helped be a salesperson. (I) also built some pretty good relationships with other vendors that work there as well.”

According to Mayimin, the people at the farmers’ markets create a kind, close-knit community.

“When I first got started, I was so busy,” Mayimin said. “I was the only one selling, and I remember sometimes customers would volunteer to jump behind the line to help me. That was always really sweet.”

Mayimin also said for many small businesses recovering from the pandemic, selling products at the farmers’ market helped sustain businesses, which in turn bolstered the community.

“For a while, it was very difficult for everyone,” Mayimin said. “Then, markets (were) reclassified as an essential business where people could get food and in a pretty safe space.”

And fortunately, for those who live in places like California, Mayimin said year-round farmers’ markets are unique to good weather.

According to Chen, farmers’ markets also bring in diverse products from people across the state.

“There are vendors coming in from a lot of places like Half Moon Bay, and they’re bringing what they’ve made,” Chen said.

Lynch said the success of farmers’ markets in Palo Alto also demonstrates the city’s strong community.

Lynch said, “We’re really fortunate to have such a vibrant grassroots community here in Palo Alto (because) a lot of places in the world don’t have something like that.”

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