The first Fortuna Farmers Market of 2018 was held this week, featuring a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, and other local products. This year the Fortuna Farmers Market has joined forces with the North Coast Growers Association. – Mary Bullwinkel — For the Times-Standard

This year for the first time, the Fortuna Farmers Market — which opened its season this week — has merged with the North Coast Growers Association, touting better promotion and more opportunities that will allow farmers to focus more on their products.

A market manager has been hired to organize the Fortuna Farmers Market and act as a liaison between the farmers and the North Coast Growers Association, a task that had previously been divided between several Eel River Valley farmers. Now they can focus more on their farms and families.

This week a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, garden plant starts and flowers were available at the first Fortuna Farmers Market, which now through October will take place every Tuesday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at 10th and Main streets. Live music was also in the air for those who were shopping.

“There are several aspects of the Fortuna market that differ from the other markets run by NCGA,” Fortuna Farmers Market manager Megan Hawkins said. “Over half of our members are from the Eel River Valley, ensuring that our local food system will continue to thrive, (and) we have a craft section that supports our local artisans, including pottery, hand-dyed clothing, wool, soaps and wellness products.“

Hawkins said there are special plans this summer for the Fortuna Farmers Market and other farmers markets in Humboldt County.

“This will also be the second year of our Fresh and Festive community outreach program,” she said. “For the markets taking place in July and August we will have a different theme each week, and local organizations will be leading many informational and community oriented activities.”

In 2018, the North Coast Growers Association is celebrating 40 years of farmers markets in Humboldt County.

This year, seven Humboldt County farmers markets will be taking place in Eureka, Fortuna, Arcata, McKinleyville and Willow Creek. Market attendees can enjoy the benefits of eating locally and seasonally, taste free samples, try out new foods, and meet the local family farmers who work hard to produce high quality food for Humboldt County.

Hawkins pointed out that the local, healthy food options at Humboldt County farmers markets are available to everyone. She said many may not be aware that produce and other items sold at farmers markets are available to those on food assistance programs such as CalFresh.

“This allows customers to shop at the markets just like they would at a grocery store, and also matches, dollar for dollar, the first $10 spent at each market through the Market Match program,” Hawkins said. “Markets also accept WIC checks and the SSI Market Match Voucher program that provides monthly vouchers to Supplemental Security Income recipients.”

There is a market information booth at each farmers market where attendees can learn more about CalFresh and Market Match programs and can sign up. The market information booth also has free nutrition information including recipes featuring local seasonal items from the market, food preservation guides, and growing guides for a variety of vegetables including both coastal and inland climates.

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