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Crowd Flocks To Downtown Market
Vegetables grown without herbicides or pesticides from Samantha and Ashley's Farms were a first-time offering at the Riverbank's Farmers Market opener.

"Here, try these baby carrots. They are really sweet," said their father, Josh Nicholas, who was running the booth along with his daughters Samantha, 12 and Ashley, 10.

He pointed to the health benefits of the naturally grown, pesticide-free products, noting that they are better for the consumer and the environment.

The Farmers Market opened the season on June 2 in the Community Center Park and will run each Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. through July.

Samantha and Ashley's Farms is not a big operation. It's a farmhouse and field on the east side of Santa Fe Road about a quarter mile south of Escalon. "...Business was slow," said Nicholas. "So we got a stand here at the market."

At their table, they were offering carrots, potatoes, lettuce, onions, cherry tomatoes and some "heirloom tomatoes," from plants that are more than 100 years old. Brandywine is the variety that Nicholas has.

Samantha and Ashley's Farms were in among the bigger, more conventional fruit and vegetable stands such as Rodin Farms that offered white plums, onions and apricots.

Next door, Bava Farms from the Dale and Kiernan roads intersection had on display onions, both Stockton red onions and torpedo onions, which are reportedly great for barbecues and shish kebab because they don't fall apart when sliced.

Bava's also had tomatoes, cherries, cabbage and fava beans.

Then Jessop Farms of Ripon had boxes of blueberries, cherries, almonds and strawberries.

"We have a u-pick blueberry farm," owner Loren Jessop volunteered. "It's very popular. We had 300 people visit last weekend. This is our third year in business but our first time here."

Apart from the fruit and vegetable stands, there were booths offering Tupperware items, Beauticontrol creams and lotions, information stands like those seeking more members for Friends of Jacob Myers Park who contemplate adding a gazebo, amphitheater and bird watching blind to the park, and an ice cream sales stand fundraising for the city's sister city organization. Even a church, The Oasis of Claus Road, was distributing information.

For entertainment, the Rock N' Country band that performs for senior citizens dances was onstage. Beer Thirty is due to play today, June 9.

This evening's market is also the date when senior citizens can obtain coupons to let them purchase $20 of food for free at the fruit and vegetable stands.

For the hungry, Castro's BBQ Shack & Filipino Food offered barbecued beef and chicken on a stick while Capt. Coops Hearty Kettle Corn was hawking bags of popcorn.

Also on hand for the inaugural 2010 market were Riverbank High's Future Farmers of America members, selling some of the fresh produce they've grown in vegetable plots at the high school and in the Riverbank Community Garden opposite California Avenue School.