F.V. hoping farmers market grows on people

After a few false starts, Fountain Valley's new farmers market seems to be taking hold.

City officials had to cancel the Market in the Park's debut May 1 because of harsh Santa Ana winds, and the extreme heat on May 15 crippled attendance numbers.

"At 5:30 p.m. last week, I looked at my phone and it was 99 degrees," said Matt Mogensen, assistant to the city manager. "Last week's attendance was definitely down, but I think we'll be definitely up quite a bit this week. If we stay at this pace, we'll be definitely successful."

The market May 8 was perhaps the closest to a real launch, but not until the weather finally cooperated May 22 did organizers see signs of hope for the event. About 1,000 visitors strolled through the parking lot of the Fountain Valley Recreation Center off Brookhurst Street to shop for fresh produce and baked goods from about

50 vendors.

The number of vendors makes Market in the Park about the same size as the Peter's Landing Farmers Market in Sunset Beach, but about half the size of Huntington Beach's Surf City Nights, said Mary Ann Senske, market manager for Surf City's event and the Orange County Great Park's farmers market in Irvine.

A cool breeze blew as Fountain Valley residents Bill and Tracy Cameron went from stall to stall looking for groceries.

"There's good prices on the vegetables and a good variety," said Bill, 63. "They've got good products too. I love the hummus, the cakes and the gourmet chocolate."

His wife, Tracy, 62, characterized nearby farmers markets as not great, but gave Market in the Park a passing grade.

"And we're seeing people that we know from the community, so that makes it fun," she said.

Mogensen said the notion of Fountain Valley having its own farmers market came from City Manager Bob Hall, former assistant city manager for Huntington Beach, where the weekly Surf City Nights is held every Tuesday.

Senske said she was on board when Hall contacted her to organize Fountain Valley's event.

"He wants to build this as a community center, like an old-styled town hall when you can come hang out and visit each other," she said.

Senske said expanding Market in the Park to accommodate more people will be her biggest challenge. The event currently occupies a portion of the parking lot next to the recreation center, eliminating parking for those using the facility.

Senske said she is trying to avoid additional interference with the recreation center and is steering clear of the parking spots next to the baseball fields nearby.

"You never want to upset people," she said. "We want people to feel welcome here."

Fountain Valley Councilwoman Cheryl Brothers is excited about the event's potential.

"I just hope the vendors are doing well and they'll keep coming back," she said. "I haven't had any food I didn't like. It's all been good."

The early success of Market in the Park will need to continue for the next several months if residents want to be able to enjoy it after the summer.

Mogensen said the city manager's office, along with community services, gave the farmers market a four-month trial period, meaning it could be shut down at the end of August.

Should the event prove to be an asset to the city, Mogensen said, the city would look into making Market in the Park a year-round affair.

"When August comes, we're going to evaluate the effectiveness of it," he said. "We'll keep it as long as it continues to be busy and we can stay semi-revenue-neutral on it."



What: Fountain Valley's Market in the Park farmers market

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays

Where: Fountain Valley Recreation Center, 16400 Brookhurst St.

Cost: Free

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