Attempts in the recent past to bring a successful farmers' market to Murrieta have failed, but not this venture by a La Cresta couple.
Mike and Linda Engle have owned Engle Farms in La Cresta for more than 27 years, and last July, agreed to manage the Murrieta Certified Farmers' Market. It's held weekly on Sundays at Village Walk Plaza. On Sunday, the couple and several vendors and community members celebrated one year of business for the market.
"Statistically 80 percent of markets fail within the first year," Linda Engle said.
To thank the vendors and the community, cake was served and train rides offered to the little ones. Under the bright summer sun, there was something for all.
Among the many vendors who set up shop were mother-daughter team, Anisa and Amaya Shannon.
Creating artwork since she was 5 years old, Anisa Shannon, now 77, can see the beauty in everything. Inspired by "cellophane from a package of Cup o' Noodles or a stick in the dirt," she uses items like "Elmer’s Glue, make-up brushes and watercolors" to create her one-of-a-kind art.
“I believe artwork is about exploring all you can and using your imagination,” Shannon said. “You can make anything, and it will mean something different to everybody.”
Her artwork was placed on a back burner to her college education, work and family. However, she never gave it up and today has more than 500 pieces of artwork and poetry.
As she advanced in age, she transferred the rights to her artwork to her only daughter, Amaya, who has taken her drawings and other artwork and made them into unique cards.
“When my mother first told me she was giving me her collection, I never imagined she would have so much,” said Amaya, who drives the short distance from Menifee to vend at the market.
“When I retired, I wanted to do something with her artwork and selling them at a market seemed like a great idea," she said.
The mother-daughter team has been vending at the market since May, and said they have been pleasantly surprised with the response.
“This is what’s so great about farmers' markets, people can create their own jobs and small businesses can get the chance to showcase their product,” Engle said.
The market is certified, meaning that vendors can only sell what they grow themselves. Since its debut in July 2010, more than 45 vendors set up each week. Along with the produce and other food items, one can also find handmade jewelry; hand carved wooden toys and custom aprons.
Recent additions include face painting, shaved ice and barbecue.
Vendor Penny Douglas recently signed on, and saw it as a great business opportunity and a way to showcase her talents as a hair stylist. She has enjoyed recent success by selling feather extensions for $5 to $30.
“Feather extensions are so trendy right now,” Douglas said. “It’s nice to have a product and be able to sell it directly to the public.”
Megan McDowell, who owns Wildomar-based MM Livestock Co., brings fresh meats to the market. She has been a vendor since the beginning and has watched it grow from a few vendors to what it is now.
“People are wanting to know where their food and products are coming from again,” McDowell said. “They want to put a face to what they are buying; they are beginning to realize that there is a local community of farmers who can do that for them.”
McDowell said the market not only supports local farmers and businesses, it also allows the consumer to get the quality that many bigger stores don’t provide. She said that pound for pound, and quality-wise, the prices are the same if not better.
Murrieta resident Joe Tookeo agrees. He has been a customer of the market since it opened. He prefers to buy his fruits and vegetables at the market instead of his neighborhood grocery store.
“The products here are better than in any store,” Tookeo said. “Here they are juicier; they have no pesticides and are the freshest you can get.”
He was able to purchase a few pounds of fresh squash and zucchini from the Engles for $3.
All of the market's produce vendors pick their fruits and vegetables the day of the market or the night before, Engle said.
Tookeo also likes being able to find something different or unusual with every visit. He insists that while there are weekly vendors he can count on, there is also enough of a variety that has him walking the market weekly.
The market has come a long way since it opened, overcoming a rainy fall and winter, Engle said. She credited its success to the vendors and the customers.
“We have such great local vendors, and our loyal customers have really made the market what is today," Engle said.