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Oct 12, 2022

Farmers Markets Are Becoming Carpetbaggers’ Delights

Explain to me why selling T-shirts and radios helps promote ag

By Ed Goldman

If you live in a state or region rich with agriculture or in close proximity to it, you’ve probably been to a few dozen farmers markets, especially at harvest times.

In California’s capital, where I’ve been fortunate to live for the last 46 years, it sometimes feels as though we have more farmers markets than farmers. 

Edgy Cartoon

Quantum reap

One recent Fall weekend you could select from at least 10 to attend—on blocked-off midtown streets, underneath the freeway, in a gentrifying onetime ghetto, at Cal Expo (summer home of the increasingly dismal California State Fair) and for all I know, in a supermarket parking lot.

This last locale isn’t all that far-fetched. For example, having food trucks on hand at farmers markets, a few hundred feet from restaurants, would seem to be a counter-intuitive idea: bad for both parties. Yet each was thriving at the midtown Sacramento farmers market we attended, where we lunched in a wonderful Mexican restaurant called Azul while, within mariachi earshot, a truck featuring a similar menu appeared to be doing a lard-office business.

And while there was a colorful array of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and vegan Styrofoam foods to choose from at the market, I noticed some pretty diverse merch for sale: afghans, tablecloths and table runners from India; jewelry (both handmade and obviously store-bought); charcuterie boards and spoon holders; T-shirts, peasant blouses and sweatshirts, to name but a few items that seemed to stretch the grown-in-Northern-California theme.

In sum, “farm to fork” is one thing; “Dollar Store to rented booth” is quite another.

I don’t begrudge any of the vendors who think that by participating in a farmers market requires them to wear coveralls, have a red bandana protruding from a back-pocket, chew on a sprout of alfalfa and check the weather all the time. I’m just not sure when these events went from promoting produce to hawking products. 

Carpetbagging is a natural by-product of an event that catches on.

For example, Sacramento is home to Second Saturday, originally intended as monthly art-show openings among participating galleries. By the time of the 2020 pandemic, it had degenerated into a pub crawl; businesses that had nothing to do with exhibiting art began hanging a painting or print in their windows and acting as though they were genuine galleries. To wit: laundromats, falaffel joints and nail salons aren’t really exhibtion spaces..

But so what? It still gets people out on a weekend, is a vibrant tonic for a sometimes moribund downtown and generally provides an urban air of conviviality.  

I also have no problem with what have become almost mandatory components of these now-hybrid happenings: tattoos, manbuns and one-man bands (the guy playing guitar, sax and drum machine at the one I attended was very good, though the volume of his mic and amp indicated an angry insistence on his being heard).

And while it sounds insensitive of me to suggest it, I always imagine the organizers think it may be incumbent upon them to also encourage a bedraggled and mentally damaged guy or two to walk around screaming obscenities, thereby frightening the attendees and making the off-duty cops reconsider how much they need the extra dough. Since, sadly, this isn’t an uncommon element of farmers markets, does someone in charge think nothing says “celebrate ag” like having homeless, disturbed and possibly dangerous individuals roam around?

Looking for a Great Gift?

I do like seeing artisans display their wares at these events—and am impressed by their ingenuity. 

At the market I recently went to, a ceramist turned what looked like one-half of an old-fashioned sleep-in car trailer into a sales stall. Another parked her elongated bus, which she’d converted into a mobile emporium, so that it stretched from one side of the street to the other. To be sure, you still had room to sidle around it; but I couldn’t help thinking it should have been used to mark the end-point or beginning of the market, in the way colossal department stores become the anchors of a shopping mall.

But the best part of going to a farmers market, especially in subtly-crisping Fall weather, is the general ambiance of being outdoors, casually dressed, free to people-watch and, if you attend these on a regular basis, reunite with favored vendors—whether they’re peddling white corn, white peaches or white lies about just how “certified organic” that corn and those peaches are. Farm to Forked Tongue, anyone?

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, Inc.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


As Floridians continue to recover from Ian, one of the worst hurricanes in United States history, I’m reminded of a blog I wrote a few months back urging lawmakers and business leaders in every country to recognize that climate change is wreaking havoc—and will continue to until we adequately and realistically address and stop it.

As business professionals and community leaders, it’s more important than ever to let ESG (environmental, social, and governance) issues dominate our decision-making process.

Climate change is killing us. Literally. We each have a personal responsibility to act now.

The whole universe, even the smallest of us, is profoundly connected.

Let’s face the stark truth: The crisis of climate change plunges those who are the most vulnerable into an even deeper pit of vulnerability.

But just as we’re all connected as human beings, the poor and abandoned are connected to those who strive for gain—at the expense of the poor and the earth.

As successful people, we have a deep obligation and responsibility to take care of our brothers and sisters. All deserve food and water and a way of living.

For corporations, the time to act is now—to let ESG issues dominate our Board rooms and our collective thought process.

I am in awe of all living things and I know each of you who reads this is, as well. We need to change our habits and work and make real changes for our common good. Ecological conversion is more relevant and urgent than ever.

Every little thing you do, every choice you make, please do so with introspection on how it affects our planet and our neighbors. Reinvigorate the conversations about what is real wealth.

The crisis of climate change is real today. And as one of my favorite (though anonymous) quotes has it, “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” Let’s all connect to ensure there’ll be a “there” there when we arrive.

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