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New Farmers Market In Ventura County Has Unique Twist; Everything Is Free

More than a hundred people have been waiting in 100 degree heat in Simi Valley for the opening of a once a month farmers market. There are a lot of farmers markets on the central and South Coasts, but this one is pretty unique. Robbie Hidalgo, with the non-profit group “Simi At The Garden,” says what makes it special is everything is free, with a goal of helping people in need.

The group runs a traditional community garden project on three acres of land off of Sinaloa Road in Simi valley.   A half acre of the garden is designated to help feed those in need through a foodbank. But, they decided they wanted to do something more, and last year it led to the creation of the Simi Free Farmers Market.

Some of "Simi at the Garden’s" growers contribute food. But, most of it comes from Food Forward, a Los Angeles County based non-profit which gleans food which would otherwise go to waste.

Before the once a month free market in Simi Valley opens to the public, some non-profit groups in Ventura County come to pick up fresh food for those they help feed.

After the non-profits load up their vehicles, it’s time for the public version of the market to begin. Despite the heat, people patiently waited their turn to get fresh produce from green beans to watermelons. There’s no screening process. The food is all given out on the honor system.

Most people are walking away with two overflowing shopping bags. There’s probably enough food on hand to fill a tractor-trailer rig, but organizers of the event say it will be gone well before the end of the window for the three hour long market. There are usually 700 to 800 walkups. Add in the food distributed by the non-profits, and they say the monthly event feeds several thousand people.

The Simi Free Farmers Market’s organizers says they are thrilled with the eight month old program’s success so far, and are hoping to grow it and to see other groups expand on the idea. The Simi event takes places on the fourth Tuesday of every month.

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