Just more than three years ago, Larry McClements thought a farmers market in Old Town Newhall “is never going to happen.” Today, he’s the new market manager that brings Santa Claritans fresh goods.
“I say it’s like winning the lottery without playing it,” he said. “I never thought I was going to manage a farmers market and now I’ve got big shoes to fill.”
McClements, a longtime Valencia resident, referred to taking over the position Jan. 1 at the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market — a city-chartered and certified organization — after former manager Greta Dunlap retired.
“I opened the market in May 2015 with the city because I wanted a better market in the community and Larry was always our No. 1 customer,” said Dunlap, a Newhall resident. “He’s passionate about farmers markets. Now is the time to grow (the market) and I couldn’t have found someone better.”
Passion is exactly what McClements calls it. His interest in cooking at home led him to search for fresh produce at farmers markets. His involvement only grew after helping his 16-year-old son, Brandon, manage a peach stand and another vendor’s stand at the Old Town Newhall locale. After spending time learning from farmers and their work, McClements had found a new purpose in life.
“My purpose in life, other than working, is to have people think about where their produce comes from,” he said. “Produce has been picked, gone to distribution centers, trucks, warehouses and to supermarkets. In our market, the stuff is picked fresh. I can walk up to a vendor and ask when a vegetable was picked and the vegetable would still be moist. The big difference is in taste.”
Dunlap spent years building a solid market, he said, and as the new manager, McClements wants to continue growing it.
Currently, the Old Town Newhall Market has 15 vendors that come from in and around the Santa Clarita Valley. Consumers can find agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, herbs and beef and eggs, as well as prepared foods including burritos, churros and popcorn.
McClements’ efforts in growing the list of vendors are already taking effect. This Saturday, he and city officials are set to hold a ribbon cutting to celebrate Sylmar-based barbecue vendor En Fuego joining the farmers market. Other incoming businesses include a returning flower vendor and an artisanal bread vendor who is working on opening a storefront in the community, according to McClements.
Besides selling goods, the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market offers nutrition assistance programs including accepting CalFresh, WIC fruit and vegetable checks and Market Match, which gives people who receive food stamps $20 vouchers.
The market also offers its Senior Farmers Market Nutrition program to help increase accessibility and consumption of fresh foods to low-income seniors, thanks to a grant by Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, said McClements. He plans on expanding this service to more retirement homes in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The Old Town Newhall Farmers Markets meets every Saturday, rain or shine, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Old Town Newhall Library parking lot, located at 24500 Main St.