Watsonville’s El Mercado farmers market opens for season

A vendor at the El Mercado farmers market at Watsonville's Ramsay Park
A vendor at the El Mercado farmers market at Watsonville’s Ramsay Park.
(Via Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley)

El Mercado, the farmers market operated by the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley at Ramsay Park in Watsonville, heads into its third year of a mission to improve access to healthy produce.

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The farmers market in Watsonville’s Ramsay Park opens for the season Tuesday, with 13 vendors and a reusable tote-bag giveaway. The market runs from 2 to 6 p.m. every Tuesday through October.

Now in its third year, El Mercado is operated by the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley, a nonprofit health care organization. (Lookout is among El Mercado’s community sponsors.)

“We saw a need to improve accessibility to fresh produce locally,” said programs manager Lizbeth Medina of the market’s origins. “And it’s created something for families [to go to].”

CHT operates the VeggieRx program, which gives eligible residents access to up to $20 in fresh produce which they can pick out themselves at El Mercado, the downtown Watsonville farmers market (Fridays year-round) or a “mini market” the organization runs. CHT also accepts food-stamp programs EBT and SNAP, and is hoping to get certified by the state’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Division this year. The trust runs “healthy eating tours” during the first Tuesday market each month to provide nutritional guidance and help visitors learn how to create balanced meals from the market’s offerings. There’s also signage throughout the market with healthy tips and recipes.

Special events are planned for the last Tuesday of each month, including a fitness focus in May, an art sale in conjunction with Arte de Corazon in June, and a Halloween event on Oct. 31 to mark the last day of the market’s season. Local organizations will also be tabling throughout to promote health and wellness and raise visibility of different resources for families.