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Napa Farmers Market seeks new home

Customers gather at the Big Ranch Farms booth on the opening day of the Napa Farmers Market in 2016, when the produce emporium moved to the South Napa Century Center. Directors announced Monday evening that the nonprofit market will have to leave the Gasser Foundation-owned property and find a new location by the end of March 2020.

The Napa Farmers Market will be on the move, again.

Directors of the nonprofit fresh-food emporium announced Monday they are searching for a new location after the market’s current host, the Gasser Foundation, requested it leave the South Napa Century Center by the end of March 2020. The farmers’ market has operated on Tuesdays and Saturdays from the parking lot of the Century Center since 2016, when it moved from a parking lot for the Oxbow Public Market.

“While we are disappointed, we respect the decision,” market directors said in a news release. “The Napa Farmers Market Board of Directors and its employees are grateful to The Gasser Foundation for its financial assistance to the market and for stepping in to provide us a home at the South Napa Century Center for the past four years.”

With the Century Center more than 80 percent occupied and attracting restaurants, shops and offices, “it certainly has become more crowded,” said market spokesperson Tia Butts, who added the foundation notified market directors of the move in late June.

The market’s board is working with the foundation as well as city and county officials and real estate professionals in its hunt for new quarters by next spring, according to Butts.

“The options are more limited (than in 2016), which is why we feel it’s so important to have the city and county’s support to get behind this market,” she said Tuesday. “We really want to have a stake in the ground to say that Napa is an agricultural mecca, an important location for food and wine, therefore its farmers’ market deserves the same attention as the Davis farmers’ market or the Portland farmers’ market.”

Directors are seeking a site with about 36,000 square feet of space, enough to hold at least 125 merchant stalls 10 feet wide and 24 feet deep. The Farmers Market also will require at least 200 parking spaces, storage, and access to public transportation, public restrooms, electricity and trash pickup.

Because of wintertime wear and tear on canopies and other equipment, board members have since January discussed seeking partners to help fund a fixed all-weather structure that could shelter other activities when the market is closed, according to Butts. The Farmers Market is open Tuesdays and Saturdays from April to September, and began operating year-round on Saturdays last year.

The Napa Farmers Market serves about 1,800 customers on Saturdays and 400 on Tuesdays, supporting more than 160 local farmers and businesses, according to directors, who said more than half its vendors are based in the county. The number of customer visits has increased 27 percent during the three years since the market moved to south Napa, Butts said.

The produce market will be the second outdoor emporium to leave the Century Center grounds as more businesses open and parking demand grows. Last October, the Gasser Foundation wound down a temporary food court composed of mobile vendors, who had been invited in 2016 to operate from the center during the wait for restaurants to sign leases.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.