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Farmers market moves to Harvard, but is it permanent?

The sky may have been threatening, but the people were friendly as the Claremont Farmers and Artisans Market got into action on Sunday morning in the Village.

The event is sponsored by the Claremont Forum and has been a weekend staple for 18 years. However, in January a Southern California Edison construction project forced the market to move from its home at Second Street adjacent to Indian Hill Boulevard.

They applied for, and received, a temporary permit to move the weekly market to Harvard Avenue between First Street and Bonita Avenue.

Harvard is wider and the market now covers two blocks instead of one so, not surprisingly, almost everyone is thrilled with the new location. Now they want to stay there permanently.

“Everybody loves this,” said Oscar De Leon, who manages the market for the Claremont Forum. “The space on Second had become too tight, here we have added vendors while others got to expand.”

One of the new vendors is Gaytan Family Farm of Riverside, which was doing a brisk business in vegetables and fruit. Their fresh strawberries were particularly popular.

“It’s a nice market,” Maricela Gaytan said as she helped a customer with his purchase. “We would really like to stay.”

In order for Ms. Gayton and others to remain, Mr. De Leon has to get approval from the traffic and transportation commission to keep the market on Harvard. On Monday he was able to secure an extension for the temporary permit through the end of May.

Another new seller is Brian Griffith, who offers citrus and avocados he grows on two acres in Riverside. Mr. Griffith is a relative newcomer to farming, launching his business five years ago after getting laid off from his high school teaching job.

“My customers get to try something fresh, not processed, they come back time and again for that,” he said.

“Smaller farmers have an opportunity to get more for their product at these markets. Here, I get about a dollar per pound, whereas the big distributor pays pennies per pound.”

With the extra money, he provides employment for two pickers and three to four sales people.

As visitors enter the market, they are welcomed by a banner that reads, “Every Sunday rain or shine,” and “Buy local, buy fresh, buy from the farmer.” The new location adds something else, it just has a more of a Claremont feel. Maybe it is the trees, 

On Sunday the trees were putting on quite the show, with pink trumpets in full bloom and the camphors creating an arched canopy over the street. The beauty of the trees and the potential for summertime shade are other reasons that Mr. De Leon prefers the new location.

According to Assistant to the City Manager Jamie Harvey, the potential relocation of the market is treated as new event as opposed to just moving an existing one. It’s more than just a matter of shutting down two blocks in the Village but a “complex traffic control plan,” she said.

Nonetheless, it is scheduled for the commission’s April meeting and if they agree—and no one files an appeal—then the market should be allowed to stay.

“Permanent move paperwork has to go through the traffic commission in April. We still have some additional documents we need to turn in, but we keep moving forward,” Mr. De Leon said.

Back at the market, Ontario resident Leon Chen and his friend, Hong Kong resident Virginia Fung, were shopping at Jerry Blake’s Bare Bees Honey stand. The pair browsed for a while as Mr. Blake explained how the honey takes on different flavors depending on which type of flowers are blooming near the hives.

“The whole farmers market is really great,” Ms. Chen said as she bought some wildflower honey. “We don’t have this in Hong Kong.”

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com