InterView- Marie Uber, Modesto Certified Farmer’s Market

Marie Uber
Modesto Certified Farmer’s Market

Farmers Markets are more than just places to pick up fresh produce and other market foods. Cities with real farmer’s markets are magnets for chefs, great restaurants and a population that values fresh foods and cooking. It says good things about a community that has a vibrant Farmer’s Market. The Modesto Certified Farmer’s Market is a weekend must-do event and it’s a good chance you will see all of your friends, hear some great music, learn some great recipes. And for sure, take fantastic locally grown tastes home. Let’s get to know Marie.

Originally from Philadelphia Marie Uber found Modesto and boy are we lucky. Marie and Dennis Uber have really made Modesto a tasty place. In addition to being parents and grandparents, they have been married for over 50 years, Marie is the Manager of the Modesto Certified Farmers Market and we get to enjoy the treats each Thursday and Saturday from May to December. Marie went to school at Davis High and received her degree in Biological Sciences from CSU Stanislaus in 1981. While at school, she was a manager at TriValley Growers Cannery so local food has been her specialty. Dennis originally was a farmer and retired from Gallo Winery in 2015. Marie became the Market Manager in 2007 after serving as Assistant Manager since 2004. You can’t miss Marie at the market where she also has the support of her daughter. Market regulars recognize the regular vendors and the seasonal specialties and the market has grown and thrived under her guidance.

ModestoView: Why is the Modesto Certified Farmer’s Market so important to Modesto?
Marie Uber: It features locally grown fresh seasonal produce. The vendors are prominently interactive with those who shop there. It is now open late March through late December. It brings together so many elements from our community; local business people, musicians and shoppers from as far away as Sacramento who come on a regular basis. The market has gained a reputation for having diverse children’s activities, music and providing a venue where local non-profits can get their word out to a large audience very quickly. We add so much to the community effort at healthy eating. For instance we had 2 grants working for our community. The first was the “Jr. Chef at the Market” where our own chef David Bradford and with partners ESRCD teaching healthy eating and cooking skills to 7th and 8th graders for 9 weeks in the summer of 2016 and 2017.

This was entirely free to the Jr High Schools who sign up: Roosevelt and La Loma who are in areas where 70%(average) have students who are on the no-cost or low-cost lunch program. Costs ran about $1200/day for this program which the grant covered entirely along with administrative costs. It was also designed to be MOBILE so we can partner with almost anyone and go any where now. We also have a grant with The Ecology Action group (Berkeley) who in turn partners with CDFA to provide $10 free dollars to match their Food Stamp purchases at the market. And they can do this at EVERY market. This program is called Market Match. MM is a match program that requires that we (the market) MATCH much of the costs. By the way we are looking for sponsorships to continue the Jr Chef program into the future now that the grant has ended.

MV: What are you most excited for when the season opens each year?
MU: Seeing the vendors who return and the shoppers, both those who are regulars and those who are new. The shoppers here want to know and care about what they eat and who grows it. People that shop regularly ask questions, important questions about healthy eating. We address this with our Chef Cooking Demonstrations 2x/month. I love talking and interacting with everyone.

MV: Do the chefs here in Modesto use the farmers market in their restaurants?
MU: We see on average 5-7 local restaurant owners there every Saturday and Thursday. We also see local Health Food stores buying large quantities of organic and other produce on a regular basis.

MV: What is the difference between certified and non-certified?
MU: Very simply certified vendors “sell what they grow”. Vendors with crafts for instance do not grow any part of what they sell, they put the components together to create their product. Therefore you cannot know exactly where an item came from whereas in agricultural products where they come directly from the source and can be verified.

MV: How do we encourage more people to eat healthy from the market?
MU: As I talked about earlier, the chefs do a tremendous job of using our seasonal produce and demonstrating how to use them in healthy recipes, which we also provide when the chefs are cooking. The EBT and the Market Match programs help those in need to buy the healthy produce items to maintain a healthier diet

MV: What is one of the myths of a farmers market that you would like do dispel?
MU: The market is a business owned and operated by and for the participants. The costs of bringing the market and its activities and programs are substantial and are paid for by and large by the fees collected from the vendors. Their pricing will be reflective of theirs and the markets operating costs. You get what you pay for I think might sum it up. Our vendors work hard to create a fun, pleasant atmosphere so people can come and relax and spend time with friends and family.

MV: Is there anything more farm to fork than this?
MU: Direct to the consumer, fresh from the farm (picked that morning) is as good as it gets.

MV: You keep a good mix of vendors with both raw and prepared foods, how does this make the market better?
MU: It gives those shopping a good variety. There is something for everybody. I like to think we have everything from Artichokes to Zuccini.

MV: What do you think would make the market better if you had unlimited budget?
MU: We would be able to serve the Community better by adding even more programs than EBT (Food Stamps), Market Match, Cooking Demonstrations, and Jr Chef, etc. I would to have more educational interactive programs for the kids that would allow the parents to shop while they play, learn and grow with us. We provide “Market Money” for school kids to come to the market and learn about farming, growing what they eat and more. I’d like to expand it. I would also like to have parent/child and adult cooking classes at an affordable low cost fee for the entire market season.

MV: Halloween is a special day at the Farmers Market, what makes it so fun?
MU: The vendors participate by being in costume and truly enjoy having all the kids come to their booth to trick-or-treat. We offer substantial prizes to children and families who participate and win the costume contests. The costumes each year are SOOOOO creative. We have an awesome artistic community in these kids.

MV: What are some of your favorite fall flavors?
MU: Lots of great produce comes with fall: beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant and grapes. There is so much its hard to pick.

MV: Describe your perfect Modesto day.
MU: Waking up to a cool breeze, a good cup of coffee and going to work at the market!

MV: Our traditional question; Beatles or Stones?
MU: Being a child of the sixties and a lover of music…they both brought music into a new era in different ways so I couldn’t pick one over the other. The Stones gave us all a sense of freedom and who couldn’t dance the night away to the Beatles.



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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.