Webb Ranch to sell produce at farmers' markets | June 12, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - June 12, 2013

Webb Ranch to sell produce at farmers' markets

by Dave Boyce

It's nearly summer, but the Webb Ranch fruit and vegetable stand at Alpine Road and Interstate 280 has been dark and empty. The ranch, in business since 1922, is in the process of trying something new, and old: selling produce at area farmers' markets.

Just in time for this change in routine will be a new Portola Valley farmers' market, and it will join two Woodside markets that are less than a year old.

The Webb Ranch produce stand may have seen its day. "I think we're just trying to figure out, more or less, a business plan that will work," ranch president Tom Hubbard told the Almanac. "Nowadays, it seems like having a real farmers' market (is more popular). A lot more people attend those." Besides, he added, customers often face "horrendous" traffic on Alpine Road.

The produce stand, according to the season, has sold organic berries, tomatoes, corn, stone fruit and pumpkins, and that service has been missed. "We've had calls from longtime customers asking, 'How am I going to get your stuff?'" Mr. Hubbard said. "The plan is to be at anything local."

Some Webb Ranch routines will not change: the annual U-Pick berry harvest is set for mid-June, and pumpkins and Christmas trees will go on sale in the fall and winter, Mr. Hubbard said.

Selling through farmers' market is a back-to-the-future kind of thing, according to the company's website. Webb Ranch began by selling produce through the intermediaries of a berry co-op and Purity Markets. The produce stand opened in 1963.

As for 2013, it's been a cool spring, which tends to slow down berry ripening, Mr. Hubbard said. The berries are about two weeks behind where they were in 2012. When they're ready, there will be two types of blackberries — olallieberry and Navaho, a thornless variety — as well as boysenberries, loganberries and raspberries, all certified organic.

PV market coming

Woodside has two farmers' markets that might work for Webb Ranch — on Wednesday afternoons in Skylonda, and on Sunday afternoons in the elementary school parking lot. Closer to home, a Portola Valley market is expected to open at 3 p.m. Thursday, June 13, in the parking lot of the Historic Schoolhouse. Town Hall has confirmed that date, as has the Portola Valley Farmers' Market website run by Maggie Foard. Ms Foard also manages the websites for the two Woodside markets.

Go to tinyurl.com/WSPV-markets for more information on these markets.

The Portola Valley Town Council in April authorized a six-week trial run for a farmers' market. That decision did not meet with universal acclaim. Residents of Family Farm/Hidden Valley, a Woodside neighborhood within hearing distance of the Town Center, objected vigorously, saying the market could interfere with equestrian activities and create "noise." There are enough farmers' markets as it is, they added.

For the June 20 market in Portola Valley, Ms. Foard's website lists musicians and food trucks. The Town Council was agreeable to a musician or two, but denied access to food trucks after staff relayed concerns about competition expressed by local restaurateurs. On June 20, there will be music and prepared food from trucks, but associated with a free summer concert at Town Center and not with the farmers' market, Town Manager Nick Pegueros said in an email.

Will Webb Ranch find a place? The Woodside markets run by Ms. Foard hold about 10 vendors each, and more tend to sign up than there is room for; some vendors have to take turns. The downtown Woodside market lists 20 vendors, and there are 14 already listed for Portola Valley. Ms. Foard said she envisions 25 vendors at the Portola Valley market by the summer of 2014.

Mr. Hubbard mentioned the Portola Valley market as an ideal spot for Webb Ranch. Ms. Foard said she has not yet been contacted, but that she is "hoping Webb Ranch joins both the Woodside and PV markets."


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