By Will Freeney | firstname.lastname@example.org
Surely you have heard of the “new” concept of farm-to-table. Restaurants now offer meals comprising fresh, locally grown ingredients throughout their menu. Farm-to-table is a wonderful approach to providing fresh, local food in the restaurants of the vicinity. But as a business model, it is much easier to implement here in the Central Valley, where over 75 percent of the nation’s table crops are grown.
Here in Fresno, we can make that natural flow occur directly to our dining room table as well, courtesy of Gibson Farm Market. It is a subsidiary enterprise of the College of Agriculture at Fresno State University. All of the employees of the market are Fresno State students, with the exception of the store manager, Jeremy Lewis, who is a Fresno native. All of the proceeds beyond those that sustain the operation go back to the College of Agriculture. So, besides acquiring the most authentically fresh, local food available in Fresno, you are supporting education with every purchase at the Gibson Farm Market.
Virtually all of the inventory is grown or raised by the students of the College of Agriculture – from sirloin steak to salad ingredients, from locally bottled wines to the creamiest of ice creams. You may not find everything you can at your local supermarket, but you can’t find anything that wasn’t made locally. Of course, corn is one of their most famous and prolific products, with an opening day rush for corn sales season that rivals opening day for the fishing season in Minnesota. If you haven’t made your corn purchase yet, you have until sometime around Labor Day to do so. Ears are stocked in the center of the store in their four-square-yard transportation bins, and those bins empty fast. Ears are flying out the door.
The few exceptions to the locally grown inventory include the numerous Bulldog-themed souvenirs available – from coffee cups to t-shirts. Even the coffee, which can’t be grown in our climate and terrain, is roasted, and packaged (whole bean and ground) by Fabiano’s Coffee of Fresno. Fabiano’s Coffee works in partnership with the market, providing not only coffee but training for Fresno State students in the business of coffee wholesale and retail. All the various blends carry FSU-based names: President’s Blend, Victor E. Blend, Time Out Roast, Bulldog Blend.
The history Gibson Farm Market reveals the extent which it is a part of the community as much as a part of the College of Agriculture. It started as a wood shack produce stand – like so many in the Central Valley – back in the 1980s. Eventually, that stand morphed into a permanent building at the corner of Barstow and Chestnut – at the center of the Jordan College of Agriculture’s portion of the campus. Then along came Rue and Gwen Gibson, Fresnans whose bequeathal to the Fresno State College of Agriculture made possible the current commodious store – just south of its predecessor and just north of the Campus Pointe shopping center. “Commodious” means, in this case, 4,800 square feet with 2,500 square feet of retail space – almost doubling the size of the old facility.
It was actually Rue and Gwen’s daughter, Joyce Gibson, who made the 1.5 million dollar donation to the university for the construction (and renaming) of the farm market. The contribution was in commemoration of her parents, who brought the family to the farmland of the Central Valley and deeply loved their new home. The result of that donation and subsequent construction has prospered, what with the abundant commerce, they do with local customers. As Joyce’s sister, Beverly Knobloch, said at the grand opening of Gibson Farm Market in 2008, “I think that the community has had a love affair with this farm market for quite a few years … now, with the opening of the new market, I think we can say it’s a marriage between the community and the university.”
The quality and diversity of their offerings cannot be over-emphasized. They currently offer three varieties of grapes (green Thompson, large purple Autumn Royal, and deep red Flame – all seedless), giant beefsteak tomatoes, and the afore-mentioned corn.
The meat section includes a full array of sausage, chorizo, bacon, and baby back ribs (in addition to the afore-mention sirloin tri-tip). The varieties of sausage outstrip any supermarket butcher – and are all locally produced. Choose from all-beef summer sausage, fresh lamb sausage (with garlic and onion), mild Sicilian sausage, Polish sausage, Smoked German sausage, fiesta cheddar sausage, pepper jack sausage, ragin’ Cajun sausage, Old World linguica, and “chorizo style” salami. If that’s not enough options, you’ll just have to make your own.
The wine section may not be quite that extensive, but it is impressive. In addition to table red and table white in the Tailgate wine line, they offer an award-winning 14-year aged Sherry and Uva Doce Port. There are several exotic varietals (Pinot Gris, Albarino, Alicante Bouchet, Malbec) as well as stalwarts like Cabernet Sauvignon and California Syrah. If you’re not sure which of these fine selections should be your selection, the Gibson Farm Market also has a tasting nook. Don’t overlook the many condiments that offer palate treats and perfect pairings while you’re in the wine corner: peach chardonnay spread, strawberry rose spread, blackberry cabernet spread, and caramelized onion spread.
The dairy case is loaded with ice cream in pints and 1.5-quart containers – as well as an ice cream counter in the corner. There’s no better treat on a hot Fresno summer day than a cone from the Gibson Farm Market. While you’re doing dairy, pick up a carton of whipped butter available and a gallon or two of milk. All from Fresno State cows, milked by Fresno State students.
Open seven days a week and present on Facebook and Twitter, Gibson Farm Market is an excellent place to check in regularly for the current fresh groceries. Check them out, check-in, and check out with bags full of Fresno’s best to eat and drink.