Where else can you find free entertainment and inexpensive fresh produce, all in a weekly community gathering than at San Luis Obispo’s Farmers’ Market?
How It All Began:
Originally named Thursday Night Promotions, what we now know as Farmers’ Market, started in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Downtown shops and boutiques decided they wanted to stay open later than 5 p.m. on Thursday nights to give people more of a chance to shop. This made downtown a popular hot spot for roaming teenagers, forcing the adult public to stray away from the new shopping hours. “The Downtown Association decided that they wanted to try to create an event to allow for people to shop later and hopefully to deter the cruising from happening,” current Thursday Night Promotions Coordinator Jill Bilich said. “They arranged to set up barricades for six blocks on Higuera on Thursday nights only and businesses kept their doors open later.” As this downtown shopping event became more successful, The Downtown Association started planning special events and entertainment within the barricades. In 1983, farmers began to be invited to sell their produce at what became the current Farmers’ Market.
Although the high energy of the community and the live performances bring the market alive, the main draw is the food. More than 120 vendors from all over the area line the street. The food is ridiculously fresh; usually brought to the market the same day it is picked according to the San Luis Obispo County Farmers’ Market Association. The market also offers a huge variety of fresh options from different spices to the classic veggies and fruits.
But best of all, “You typically can find a good meal for under $10,” said Bilich. Going out for dinner is a treat to students, but finding an inexpensive place to eat is hard. Farmer’s provides options of all different kinds to provide a filling and healthy meal that tingles one’s tastebuds without breaking the bank. Campus food can get old: and fast. Not only is it hard to stay healthy, but it also becomes repetitive. “The strawberries at Farmers’ are extra delicious because I’m deprived of them on campus,” said Madeleine Smyth, a first year Political Science major from Cal Poly. Farmer’s Market gives students the ability to buy and taste food that they can’t on campus, and even bring them back to their room.
One of the most popular vendors at Farmers’ Market is F. McLintocks. With large portions and delicious meats, this cheap meal is worth the trip. Check out this podcast to learn about the hype behind F. McLintocks.
Performances at Farmers’ Market are held in multiple places along the street. Different forms of entertainment can be found each week at Nipomo Street, Garden Street, Chorro Street, and Morro Street. Each street hosts a different artist or different kind of performance to watch. This can be anything from a Juggling unicycle variety to the classic acoustic guitar and vocals. All performers are chosen through an audition process and are selected as the acts that best promote the goals of the Thursday Night Promotions committee. And, of course, the performances are free for the public as they line the street. Farmers’ Market is a great outlet to find free entertainment from local performers.
“I think my favorite part about the food is the culture that surrounds the food. All these people are out here just enjoying the food together as a community and I think that’s what makes the food so good,” said Alex Kanter, a first year Sociology major from Cal Poly. Farmers’ Market, above all, is a great place for the whole SLO community to come together in one place. It is almost guaranteed that you will run into a friend, or make some new ones during your Farmers’ Market experience. San Luis Obispo is known to have some of the friendliest and happiest people, and this shines through during the Thursday night activities. “The social aspect is huge,” said Jill Bilich. “It is a chance for our community to come together. We all live such diverse lives and I think this is an event where we can all come together and feel like we are all kind of on the same playing field.”