Merced entrepreneur Rocio Gonzalez, through a local partnership and with the assistance of two of her sisters, has developed and organized the new “Kind Neighbor Farmers Market” which takes place every Wednesday through Sept. 29, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., on the main campus of Golden Valley Health Centers in Merced, at 747 W. Childs Avenue.
The mission of Kind Neighbor Farmers Market is a much needed one — to bring locally grown fresh produce to the residents who live on the south side of town.
With its vendors spread out at booths on the lush, green lawn of the health center, the most recent market day was buzzing with activity. There were many customers browsing at vendor booths and purchasing items, and others were taking a free yoga class. There was also a free basket giveaway.
The market started in July, but Gonzalez started planning her own business, an all-natural juice bar, back in 2018. Her folks had passed away of some health-related issues and she thought better nutrition could have helped them live a better quality life and perhaps a longer one, so she included wellness education in her business plan.
Her dream came true with the opening of Kind Neighbor last year at 560 W. 18th Street in Merced, which is also the location of Ravello’s Restaurant & Bar. She uses the kitchen to make her juices. Her current business hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Since the opening of Kind Neighbor the juice bar, Gonzalez formed a partnership with Merced County Public Health Department and Cal-Fresh, allowing her to organize and develop the Kind Neighbor Farmers Market with its goal of providing access to fresh produce along with wellness education.
“I organized it with the help of my sisters, Sonia and Cynthia Gonzalez, and the assistance of the Merced County Public Health Department and Cal Fresh and the community vendors,” Gonzalez told the Times. “Cal Fresh provides aid to low-income families to purchase local produce, and it promotes healthy eating.
“Our mission is free wellness education and easier access to healthier foods, so this partnership aligns with our mission. …
“Today, we brought Guzman and Son’s Produce to the market. We use their organic produce to make our juices.
“We need more farmers to bring their produce so we can have more produce booths at the market. We talked to 70 farmers, but a lot were short-staffed or had a market out of the Bay Area. So, we’re still looking and hope to have more soon.
“Today, we also brought to the market La Jacka Mobile, a vegan and vegetarian food truck from Fresno.
“All our vendors are local and have handcrafted items.”
The vendors at Kind Neighbor Farmers market:
Kind Neighbor juice bar
Gonzalez makes various juices using a cold press juicer, and they taste the freshest ever. The process does not use very much heat so the nutrients are not extracted, and that means people get more of the nutrients in the juice. The juice could be enjoyed on the spot, but the juices last three to five days so they could also be ordered to go.
At the booth on August 4, she sold a product made with beet, orange, and carrot juice, one made with cucumber, apple and celery, and one made with strawberry, lemon and maple syrup. She also had chia pudding for sale.
Guzman and Son’s Produce
The business brought organic produce to the market, including tomatoes and eggplant.
Dom’s Bomb Gourmet Popcorn
This business features melt-in-your-mouth popcorn with various flavorings.
Rebecca, the Florist
Rebecca sells bouquets, and some of the flowers she uses are zinnia, sunflower, phlox, gardenia, and lisianthus. She also has plants for sale. A lot are grown locally. She teaches classes in floral design online.
The business features handmade candles and room sprays. The room sprays are made with fragrance oils and have scents like Sea Salt & Orchid.
The business owner, Jessica Gonzalez, is Rocio’s sister. She is a beekeeper in South Merced, who sells raw, unfiltered honey and has four varieties — avocado (the richest), eucalyptus (which is great in tea), redbud (the most complex), and sage wildflower (the sweetest). She also sells honeycomb and beeswax candles.
Sabonette features many types of handmade soaps, such as Aloe Vera and Goat’s Milk, which are good for sensitive skin, and she also sells oils such as rose oil, which hydrates the skin, and chamomile oil, which is good for sensitive skin. Besides skin products for women, she sells men’s beard oil.
Other vendors were Duende Jewelry, C&C Woodcraft & Design, Leal Massage Therapy, and Memorable Arrangements, featuring balloon arches and decor.
Golden Valley Health Centers
The booth at the market provided information on COVID vaccination. The health center allows the patient to choose which of the three vaccines they prefer, Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, and there is also testing for COVID available.
Central California Child Development Services
This business’ Centers provide free or low-cost childcare for children ages six weeks through five-years-old in families that are employed in fishing, agriculture, or agriculturally related work.