Nipomo is losing both of its farmers markets — but one might come back

Tour the Downtown SLO Farmers Market

Scenes from the Downtown San Luis Obispo Farmers Market, which runs year-round. There's music, barbecue and, of course, fresh fruits and vegetables.
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Scenes from the Downtown San Luis Obispo Farmers Market, which runs year-round. There's music, barbecue and, of course, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sad news, Nipomo foodies. Both of the town’s weekly farmers markets will have closed by the end of the year.

But there’s a little good news as well. One might come back in 2019. Maybe.

At the Nipomo Certified Farmers’ Market, held Sundays at the Trilogy at Monarch Dunes housing development, organizer Glenn Johnson said there was a “lack of vendors, lack of customers and not enough money to keep it running.”

The market was first launched in 2005.

“This is the third market that has been attempted in the last twenty years in Nipomo and they have all shut down,” Johnson wrote in an email to The Tribune. “I don’t see anyone trying again in the near future.”

The last market will be held Sunday, Dec. 30, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, across town, the Old Towne Farmers Market shut down about a month ago.

Organizer Richard Malvarose said the decision to stop was influenced by a number of reasons.

“We did have a few certified produce vendors, three consistently, and they were very supportive of our endeavor,” he said. “There just didn’t seem to be enough interest from the public.”

Malvarose said he didn’t think it was a lack of publicity that led to the shutdown. “I use social media and print publications to great advantage for other events,” he said, noting his work on the Nipomo Fourth of July and Christmas parades, as well as cruise nights and numerous barbecues throughout the year.

The Old Towne Farmers Market, which closed in November, took place Saturday mornings at the intersection of Tefft and Carrillo streets in Nipomo.

South County Chambers of Commerce CEO Jocelyn Brennan said in an email to The Tribune that organizers are considering moving the Nipomo farmers market to a different day in order to avoid competing with the Arroyo Grande farmers market, held Saturdays.

“We will be reaching out to farmers to try to determine if there is a day they are more likely to participate,” she wrote. “Once we have better participation and a new day of the week determined, the plan is to relaunch.”

Malvarose was more hesitant about relaunching the Old Towne Farmers Market.

“My opinion is that if the public was interested, there would have been greater attendance at some point throughout that day,” he said. “We may revisit the concept in the future but there’s also a financial component to the market.”

Malvarose said it costs about $850 to run the farmers market each year.

To make it more attractive to vendors, organizers charged a $65 annual participation fee — compared with the $700 vendors would pay to sell at other local markets.

When the farmers market had 17 vendors, that was financially feasible, Malvarose said.

But when organizers polled those vendors for interest in the next year’s market, only three responded that they wanted to continue, he said. This would have required the group to increase participation fees to just under $300 per vendor, “which we and they did not believe was a fair amount,” he said.

“In the end we tried, a certain number of vendors tried and a small but dedicated core group of patrons tried,” Malvarose said. “At this particular time it didn’t work.”

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.