Two new farmer's markets could be coming to South County

Within a few months, South County residents could have two more places to shop for locally grown produce.

Pismo Beach planning commissioners recently approved plans for a weekly, year-round farmer’s market in the Pismo Coast Shopping Plaza on Five Cities Drive, which is anchored by California Fresh Market and Rite Aid.

At the same time, volunteers in Oceano are working on plans to open a weekly farmer’s market in that community, now eyeing April 5 as their target starting date.

With the addition of two new venues, South County residents would be able to shop at eight farmer’s markets from Avila Beach to Nipomo. There were 19 certified farmers markets in San Luis Obispo County last year, though not all operated year-round.

The new Pismo market will operate on Tuesday mornings, said April McLaughlin, the market’s manager. It will start sometime in the spring, and planning commissioners agreed that sales could take place between 7 a.m. to noon.

Both new markets will source as much locally grown food as possible, McLaughlin said.

“The markets in Pismo and Oceano will be geared toward consumers (so they can) make an educated decision about where their food is coming from,” she said. “We want our locals to thrive, especially in a town like Oceano that is agricultural-centric.”

In Pismo, the concept will be known as “55 fresh,” meaning that anything within a 55-mile radius of the market is considered local.

The market will also help draw traffic into the center during what is typically a slower time of the week for the stores, said Glenn Martin of Glenn Martin Co., who manages the shopping center for property owner Rick Gambril.

The market probably won’t operate during busy times of the year, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, he added.

The market would use about 44 of the shopping center’s 270 parking spaces. McLaughlin estimated it will accommodate about 20 vendors.

At the commission’s Jan. 14 meeting, Commissioner DJ White asked whether it would benefit the city to have two farmer’s markets, noting that the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce already runs a weekly market at the pier on Wednesday afternoons.

Pismo Beach Planning Manager Carolyn Johnson said the city would absolutely benefit from two markets.

The new market “is easy to get to,” she added. “It’s right off the freeway.”

Meanwhile, in Oceano, volunteers have selected a location at the former Oceano Nursery at Highway 1 and Paso Robles, group chair Mary Lewis said. The group needs to obtain a minor use permit from the county.

It had received a permit to operate at the Oceano Community Center when the group was functioning as a committee of the Oceano Community Services District, but has since split off to become a nonprofit organization.

“We really want to give small producers a showcase,” Lewis said. She hopes to have 20 vendors at the market.

The group plans to hold a fundraising event in March. For more information or to get involved, go to www.facebook.com/groups/454119271306860 or contact Lewis at mlewis.ray@gmail.com.

Farmers and artisan vendors interested in the new Pismo Beach market can contact McLaughlin at 55freshfarmersmarket@gmail.com or through www.facebook.com/55Fresh.