|The Menifee Farmers Market was held every Sunday morning in the parking lot at Mt. San Jacinto College.|
The Menifee Farmers Market, a Sunday morning fixture for the last two years in the parking lot of Mt. San Jacinto College, has been discontinued.
Paul Gross, founder and owner of the market, confirmed that the market closed as of last week. An event that weekly attracted 20 to 35 vendors and decent crowds of customers featured fresh produce, bread, other food items, miscellaneous items from other vendors and occasionally entertainment.
According to Chris Halliday, operations manager, the market shut down when its contract with the college expired.
"Paul is looking for alternate sites, with aspirations of opening again in the fall," Halliday said. "The contract was not going to be renewed, which forces Paul, if he wants to continue, to look elsewhere."
Gross said he is finalizing plans to open a market near the Trevi Entertainment Center in Lake Elsinore, probably "in three or four weeks." That market will be open on Friday nights from 5-9:30 p.m. He also runs a Saturday farmers market at the Lake Perris Fairgrounds.
In addition, Gross said he is working on plans to relocate the Menifee Farmers Market to Scott Road, where it would operate in conjunction with the Wickerd Farm. This plan is "still up in the air," he said, but would again be planned for Sunday mornings. Gross has staged events such as a haunted house at Wickerd Farm in the past.
Halliday said it's difficult to find a site conducive to such an event.
"There are only two or three arterial routes in town, and you need visibility from one of those," he said. "You also want to be where you're not competing with other commercial businesses. People ask why can't we go to the Marketplace? Well, you'd never get a contract there because you would be considered competition for those businesses."
The closing of the Menifee Farmers Market leaves one such weekly market in town -- the Cherry Hills Farmers Market, which operates from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays at the Sun City Shopping Center.
Royce Stevens created a Facebook page entitled "Vendors Wanted So. Cal.," which is described as "serving vendors of Farmers Markets and Street Fairs, to expedite communication between vendors and encourage a healthy relationship between vendors, event coordinators, market managers, sponsors and, most importantly, the public." In an email, he described the loss of the college site as unfortunate.
"I had always thought that the market at Mt. San Jacinto College in Menifee should have developed into the biggest Farmers Market in Riverside County," Stevens said. "It has the room to expand, there are two Freeway I-215 off-ramps at the east and west end of the campus, there are parking lot trees to provide shade during the summer for the produce and the people, there is a service road, there is the big electronic campus sign, and there is plenty of parking space."
Apparently, those factors could not save the market at its current site.
"The Farmers Market staff would like to sincerely say thank you to all the market vendors, the people of Menifee and our very faithful followers for their continual support of the Menifee Farmers Market," Halliday said.