Elk Grove Farmers Market provides fresh fruit and more for the community

Local farmers share their love of agriculture and educate patrons on the benefits of organic fruits and vegetables


Josh Slowiczek

Spivia (right) and Yvonne (left) Manning sit in the shade and sell their produce at the Elk Grove Farmers Market on Aug. 31.

With the rear hatch popped, they sat quietly together in the back of their jeep. There was a week’s worth of hard work and patience laid out on the tables in front of them. Hanging beside the quiet couple was a certification and sign, “We grow what we sell.”

There were plums, zucchinis, figs, sunflowers, okra and apples. The eggs had already been sold, but there was a wide variety of squash: one balls, eight balls, sunbursts, straight necks, crook necks and cream-colored butternuts.

All of it was fresh, having been picked that morning or the night before by Yvonne and Spivia Manning.

They were having some mechanical problems with their jeep that morning, but the Mannings still made the trip and brought more than 100 pounds of fresh produce, grown on their seven-acre family farm in Wilton, to the Elk Grove Farmers Market on Aug. 31.

They have been coming for the past five years and have gradually seen an increase in attendance at the farmers market which operates every Saturday in the parking lot of Sprouts, on the corner of Laguna and Big Horn boulevards, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“People are finally starting to figure out that it [the market] is here year around,” said Yvonne Manning, 56, “There’s always something available.”

Providing that availability is no easy task and the Mannings have had their own struggles with farming. In the past years they’ve grown corn, but this year Spivia Manning got sick and couldn’t plant the seeds in time. He has been farming since he was 8 years old. Now, at 54, he’s facing more and more challenges.

“It’s the only thing I know,” Spivia Manning said. “I didn’t go to college. I’m a low-tech man in a high-tech world.”

Regardless of technology or education, the Mannings provide a service that the Elk Grove community sees as beneficial.

“A lot of the time the fruit you get in the grocery store, it might be nutritionally the same but it will have additives, chemicals that are bad for you,” said Muz Afzal, a 20-year-old philosophy and public health major from University of California, Irvine.

Over the summer Afzal comes up to Sacramento to help with the family farming business. Six days a week he travels to various farmers markets, from San Francisco to Sacramento to Tahoe, to sell the fresh produce his parents grow.

Thirty-five years ago Afzal’s father was one of the first farmers to produce Asian pears in California. Now it is their bestselling crop.

“Not only are you being green, environmentally friendly and supporting the local economy,” said Afzal. “You’re also getting fresh fruit that is better for you.” 

Pullquote Photo

A lot of the time the fruit you get in the grocery store, it might be nutritionally the same but it will have additives, chemicals that are bad for you.

— Muz Afzal

Pam Holdredge, a 50-year-old special education teacher in Elk Grove, agreed with Afzal and tries to buy organic when she can.

“I find the quality is a lot better than most of the stores,” Holdredge said. “The prices are usually better.”

She visits the Elk Grove Farmers Market over the summer and fall, always on the lookout for tomatoes, cucumbers and anything else in season.

What the land provides and when it provides is not only important for the farmers who work the land, but also for the communities in which they live.

“It helps support the economy. From your local farmers it all goes back into the community,” Yvonne Manning said. “It is all natural and fresher.”