Press "Enter" to skip to content
Laura Austin Photo / Members of the community turned out to The Farmers Market on Balsam Street. The event, which moved from its location at Ridgecrest Cinemas, made its inaugural debut on Wednesday evening, May 1.

Farmers Market moves to Wednesday night on Balsam

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff Writer–
Wednesday, May 1, was the inaugural City of Ridgecrest Farmers Market, which will be held weekly on Balsam Street from 5 pm to 8 pm (excluding Christmas and New Year’s Day). Do not worry; they are making plans for an alternate location when the weather does not cooperate.

The Farmers Market is moving from its location at Ridgecrest Cinemas.  Kelly Walden, Manager of Ridgecrest Cinemas, opened their parking lot “to give the vendors a place to be during COVID time because other things were shutting down,” says Jennifer Rickets, Administrative Analyst for the City of Ridgecrest. She tells us, “The hours of the theater were limited because of COVID.  But she is ready now to go back to more streamlining and theater focus rather than being so spread out.”

Walden reached out to the City a few months ago with her concerns about what would happen to her vendors. “Unbeknownst to her, we were already saying it would be really nice if there were a market down on Balsam Street because that would draw business into those local businesses,” says Rickets. “We have some vacancies down there that if we can sell the vacancy as a place that has all of this foot traffic once a week and then again for our large events, then that’s more likely that spot will fill up and, of course, we don’t want to see vacant buildings around town. So we loved that idea.”

City Manager Ron Strand, Administrative Analyst Isabel Medina, and Rickets did their field research by visiting other farmers markets. Fieldwork was done, and they turned to research and action. “We did research as to what a city government needs in order to run the market because the constraints are a little bit different than they are for a public entity to run one. We went through the process of getting our market certified so that we can have certified produce vendors. They have to go through a few more rigorous steps with the USDA in order to be at the market. And so we did all of that. We have a certified section to our market now, which we haven’t had in town in the past. And we went through all of the permitting with the county. We’re still working on setting up a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) so that we’ll be able to help people who are on food stamps or EBT. So it will be able to give them some access to that produce as well.”

They also hired a longtime farmers market vendor, Briana Trowbridge, to be the Farmers Market Manager. After orienting herself a bit, she says, “My first official business thing was to send an email out to all the vendors introducing myself and welcoming them, thanking them for continuing with this market. I already have a good standing relationship with a lot of vendors from being a vendor myself for the past couple of years. So it was kind of natural. I think it was a good position for me to already have those relationships.”

The farmers market will include live music in addition to a wide variety of goods and merchandise. The Lazy Dog Mountain Band and acoustic artist Rob Shaw are scheduled to perform. Live music will be played every week to add to the ambiance of the market.

Michelle Purkiss, the owner of Very Good Baking Company, welcomes the change to Wednesday nights. “The time change opens up my weekend to be with my family,” she says. “My husband works on base and gets Flex Friday off and that is normally my baking day. So I don’t get to maximize that time with him. I love everything that Kelly has done and how they’ve been able to help out during COVID, but I’m excited about the possibilities that the City can offer. I’m very excited for the time change.”

Purkiss is a certified pastry chef who attended the famed cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu. She tells us, “ I started a very good Baking Company a couple of months after we moved to Ridgecrest in 2016, and I’ve loved creating delicious things for the community. I tend to be a little bit of everything, I do candies like English toffee, homemade caramel marshmallows, fudge, and chocolate bark. I also do jams and homemade peanut butter. For baking, I make cookies, cakes, brownies, cobbler, pies, and bread. There’s always just a big range that I kind of switch between week to week.” With such a variety of offerings, it is difficult for her to name a fan favorite. Still, she concedes it could be her individually wrapped caramels, which she offers every week.

Nancy Pace, owner of Bake My Day, admits that change is often difficult, but she always prevails. She is very grateful that the City is working towards helping folks with food stamps. “That’s a good thing,” she says. “That’s something we’ve always wanted to do for the farmers market, but it just never happened.” Pace started her company several years ago after leaving her previous employment and was bored. “I started baking and started getting into the cottage food arena and found out I liked it. We started at the market on Balsam Street when Jake (Rudnick) was doing it.” She has continued baking and selling to this day. Her repertoire includes cookies, pies, sweet and savory quick breads, muffins, cupcakes, mini-cakes, and cinnamon rolls. One of her specialties is Cookie Cups. She bakes a cookie in a miniature muffin cup and then layers in a filling. These bite-size treats are quite popular.

The City is stepping up events to respond to the needs of our community. Surveys always report that “more things to do” consistently tops requests. Funds from Measure P help supplement the costs. “Measure P is was passed in 2022,” explains Rickets. “It’s a general fund measure, but in passing it, we agreed with the community to address their top priorities. Those were roads and fire. We wanted to keep both of our fire departments open and community events and Pinney pool which is being worked on now. This is part of community events, which is great because Measure P is a 1% sales tax, and that means that anybody who purchases in our town is paying it rather than just property owners right here in Ridgecrest.”

Some practical facts: To become a vendor, go to the City of Ridgecrest website. Rates range from $8 to $30 depending on the size of your space and frequency of attendance. “There will be restrooms located at Sanders and Panamint in that parking lot. That’s the number one parking spot as well, with overflow parking in back of the Burger King parking lot.”

Rickets heaps praise on Ridgecrest Cinema’s Walden: “She’s been awesome and done such a good job with the whole theater in the ways that she’s re-engaged the community, bringing throwback shows and expanding her concessions. She put that same sort of passion into her market, and it was very obvious that she did.”