A Mid-summer Update from the Chair of Turlock Certified Farmers Market

As many of you have witnessed, our move to Stanislaus County Fairgrounds has been fantastic. Public restrooms, ample parking, plenty of shade, and room to grow prove that this location has everything a vibrant farmers’ market needs. Each week, new people, as well as returning market goers, come together as a community surrounded by local farmers, vendors and food purveyors.  

Thank you, Community of Turlock, for supporting us and coming to enjoy our new “digs”.  The future is bright at Turlock Certified Farmers Market.

During the next 2 weeks, July 9 and 16, TCFM will break for the Stanislaus County Fair. I am looking forward to both the break and our return on July 23rd. Hopefully, I’ll see you at the Fair where you’ll find me enjoying a large soft serve ice-cream cone or maybe some yummy Latif’s pie.

If you still want your local fruits and veggies from the farmers who you know and love, be sure to check out what is happening at Village Corner Shopping Center on East Canal and Johnson from 8 am to 1 pm this Saturday and next. They will have an outdoor event during both weeks when TCFM is closed.

This midseason break has allowed me some time for reflection on our history, who we are and how and why we do what we do. Here are some of my more formal thoughts for those of you who are interested.

TCFM is a non-profit corporation organized and validly existing in the State of California as a public benefit corporation.[1] It was created to benefit the community by bringing a farmers’ market to Turlock.  In obtaining its Exemption Determination from the Internal Revenue Service as an IRC Section 501(c)(3) public charity, the TCFM highlighted to the Internal Revenue Service its desire to educate the community. 

As referenced in its submission to the Internal Revenue Service, in the bigger picture, the TCFM Board fulfills the broader mission of the farmer’s market – to educate the public about the health and nutrition connected to eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.

In the early years, when the market was a weekday event, the Board reached out to several schools and school districts in our community to arrange field trips for youth of all ages. The field trips were curriculum based, educating students about the agricultural prominence of our region as well as the nutritional element of exposing kids, first hand, to fresh seasonal foods. Turlock Unified School District and Turlock Certified Farmers Market worked together to ensure that every Market had educational activities for students and their families.  TUSD and TCFM created special day and night markets with distinct themes centered on educating the community and promoting healthy living.  Working with TUSD the TCFM did the following:

            1.          Kids to Market – Activities were set-up so when classes arrived, often by bus, there is an array of activities for them.  One popular activity was the Art Walk where TCFM partnered with the Carnegie Arts Center.  A representative from the Carnegie walked the students to the art center to view an exhibition and spend time in the art studios creating “Ag-Art”.  Students then returned for a tour of the market, led by one of the TCFM docents and each student received $2 Market Bucks to purchase fresh produce as they explored the Market. The local vendors spent time with the students telling them of their farming practices and products.

            2.         TUSD Night Market – TUSD Child Nutrition Services had multiple booths where visitors were given books, pamphlets, games, prizes and fresh produce all for the purpose of educating parents and their children about healthy lifestyles.  There were cooking demonstrations, prize oriented contests, information about activities and events available year round by the City of Turlock’s Parks and Recreation Services, as well as demonstrations by area health and fitness organizations.

            3.         TUSD Pitman High School Farmers of America (FFA) – In 2014, Pitman High FFA brought the organic produce they grew on their one-acre garden to the Market to sell.  The Turlock Journal highlighted that “students…maintain the crops and can be found on Friday morning selling their organic produce at the Turlock Farmers Market.”  The students were enthusiastic about their farm work and enjoyed telling market goers about what they were learning regarding irrigation, organic pest control, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting their crops.

            TCFM also has a wide range of additional educational activities at the Market.  The Market pairs with local authors for book signings. Turlock Story Tent brings free books to the Market where market goers are invited to sit, listen and read.  The Market also pairs with a local petting zoo where children (and adults) are able to interact with local farm animals. Since moving to the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, TCFM’s market goers have been able to enjoy a cattle show, a llama competition, and a hog show. On a weekly basis, local non-profits, such as Carnegie Art Center, Turlock Garden Club, and ABC Project, come to the market and educate the public about what they are doing in and around the community of Turlock.

TCFM has a history of partnering with the City of Turlock to educate the public. Municipal Service Day was a yearly occurrence when the Market was located in the downtown. The City provided a working police car, fire truck, ambulance, earth mover, commuter bus, and other City vehicles that are completely accessible to market goers.  Police officers, fire fighters, EMT’s, municipal workers, and bus drivers are on hand to demonstrate their vehicles and equipment, as well as to explain their daily activities to market goers. In addition, the Bike Rally every May was an opportunity for the City Engineering Department and Turlock Police Department to partner with bicycle advocates and educate the community about the value of healthy transportation.   

TCFM’s goal and purpose is not just to provide food at the Market, but also to educate the community on both the value and health benefits of consuming fresh, locally produced fruits, vegetables and other locally produced products. 

With respect to the TCFM’s finances, the money collected at the market is used to run the market and organization. No organizer of TCFM is paid or has taken any money out of the organization. The only people who receive or have received compensation are independent contractors who manage the day to day aspects of the market. No independent contractor was involved in the formation of TCFM[2] or has ever been an officer or director of our organization while being an independent contractor. The Board of Directors is made up of volunteers who donate their time and energy without compensation to run TCFM.

Tax exemption is not a requirement to run a farmers market in the State of California.[3] Non-profit status is a requirement, and the TCFM is both a non-profit public benefit corporation and has been recognized by the Internal Revenue Service and Franchise Tax Board as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity.  As shown above, the TCFM provides a wonderful benefit to the Turlock community and the Directors of TCFM do not receive any compensation for their work to try and educate their community.”

As I said before, the future is bright at Turlock Certified Farmers Market. The Board of Directors is working on developing some new educational projects, such a Children’s Edible Garden, and we cannot wait to see how each of these ideas grows.

See you soon at the Market,

Elizabeth Claes, Chair

[1] According to Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, “A non-profit organization is a group organized for purposes other than generating profit and in which no part of the organization's income is distributed to its members, directors, or officers. Non-profit corporations are often termed "non-stock corporations." They can take the form of a corporation, an individual enterprise (for example, individual charitable contributions), unincorporated association, partnership, foundation (distinguished by its endowment by a founder, it takes the form of a trusteeship), or condominium (joint ownership of common areas by owners of adjacent individual units incorporated under state condominium acts). Non-profit organizations must be designated as nonprofit when created and may only pursue purposes permitted by statutes for non-profit organizations.” (https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/non-profit_organizations)

 [2] According to “Applying for 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status” published by the IRS, “While an organization’s application is waiting for processing by the IRS, the organization may operate as a tax-exempt organization” (p. 10).

[3] The Code of Regulations under Title 3 - Food and Agriculture, Division 3 - Economics, Chapter 1 – Fruit and Vegetable Standardization, Subchapter 4- Fresh Fruits, Nuts and Vegetables, Article 6.5 - Direct Marketing, 1392.2a states, “Certified Farmers' Market. A location approved by the county agricultural commissioner of that county where agricultural products are sold by producers or certified producers directly to consumers or to individuals, organizations, or entities that subsequently sell or distribute the products directly to end users. A certified farmers' market may only be operated by one or more certified producers, by a nonprofit organization, or by a local government agency.”