For over 30 years, the Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market has provided civic service to the community of Palo Alto and the surrounding area. After the last downtown grocery closed, a group of Palo Alto residents, known as the Downtown Market Citizens’ Committee (DMCC), convened to brainstorm a way to provide access to fresh produce for downtown seniors and young families. Led by volunteers from Avenidas and the greater Palo Alto community, the DMCC envisioned a Farmers Market to provide the solution.
1981: Market Opens
With outdoor space donated by the Wells Fargo Bank branch on Hamilton and Waverley, legal sponsorship and a $1,500 seed loan from Avenidas, and an all-volunteer board comprised of community members, the Market opens on June 27th. The eleven farmers who participate on the first day are overwhelmed by the huge turnout of customers that come to the Market. Almost all sell out quickly.
1982: Donations to Avenidas Begin
With receipts in excess of $3,100, the Market pays off its seed loan and makes its first annual donation to Avenidas: $300.
1983: Market Moves, Food Donations Begin
The Market moves to its current location on Gilman Street. At the end of the Market day, the Lions Club begins collecting unsold produce to donate to the Food Closet, a practice that continues today.
1986: Market Incorporates
With pro-bono assistance from Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, and Rosati, the Market incorporates as a separate legal entity, a non-profit 501(c)4 social welfare organization. The mission and program of the Market remain unchanged.
1988: Community Participation Continues
The Market begins its annual tradition of marching in Palo Alto’s May Fete Parade. Annual donations to Avenidas exceed $12,000.
1990-2004: Market Helps Local Food Businesses Start
The Market provides a bootstrap with early retail outlets for such local businesses as Harley Farms Goat Cheese, Esther’s German Bakery, The Oaxacan Kitchen, Hodo Soy Beanery, and Green Oaks Creek Farm.
Sunset Magazine features a commendation of the Market as one of its “favorites across the West” in September 2000. Avenidas recognizes the Market with an award for its contributions to the well-being of area seniors and their families in 2003.
2006: Market Celebrates its 25th Year
A season of Market festivity is marked by a proclamation from the City of Palo Alto, signed by Mayor Judy Kleinberg, commending the Market “for its valuable contributions that are so vital to the well being of our community.”
2011: Community Roots, Community Benefits
Hundreds of area residents, from San Carlos to Santa Cruz, continue to find outstanding, fresh, local food from approximately 60 local vendors at the Market. Annual Market donations to Avenidas reach $20,000 and cumulative community donations reach almost $400,000.