With controversial changes underway in local farmers markets, a lot of misinformation is afloat. Let me try to clear up at least some of it.

Contrary to several announcements and articles, the new market launching on Saturday does not raise the number of local farmers markets to two. It raises that number to four.

The Oakmont Farmers Market has operated year round since the mid 1990s. It takes place on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Its customers tend to be primarily from Oakmont andnearby Kenwood. There’s also a Tuesday evening seasonal market in Oakmont, which counts as another market day but not a separate market.

The Santa Rosa Downtown Market, which opened a couple of weeks ago for its 2012 season, includes a farmers market, the only afternoon/evening market in town. Because the event is primarily a street fair, it can be inconvenient to shop at this market, though if you arrive when it opens–5 p.m.–it won’t be too crowded or overly noisy. This market is especially good for downtown residents within walking distance. The real downside of this market is that it wraps up on the last Wednesday of August, before the height of harvest.

The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market was founded under a different name, the Sonoma County Farmers Market. At the time, 1978, it was the first and, for a while, the only farmers market in the county. Except for a brief time, sometime in the early 1980s, it has operated in the east parking lot of the Veterans Building in Santa Rosa on Wednesday and Saturdays. For decades, the hours were 8:30 a.m. to noon but a year or two ago, an hour was added to the Saturday market. Now the market has moved to the southeast parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. This move will be disconcerting to shoppers in the vicinity of the Vets Building but it will make the market more convenient to both residents near the the Center and, in late fall, winter and early spring, to Windsor and Healdsburg residents. I’ve also heard from many Forestville and Guerneville folks, who are thrilled that the market will now be a straight shot down River Rd. The market will operate year round, from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday and from 8:30 to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Expect about 70 vendors on Saturdays.

The newest market, the Redwood Empire Farmers Market, opens on Saturday in the west parking lot of the Veterans Building. It will operate in this space through the end of June; it is expected to move to the east parking lot in July. Some Santa Rosa Original vendors–about 30, I’ve heard from several sources–have chosen to go with the new market rather than make the move to the Wells Fargo Center. There will be new vendors, as well, including Felton Acres of Sebastopol, which has pastured eggs, soy-free Freedom Ranger chickens, Cornish-X chickens, lamb and pork. The market will operate year round, from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday and from 8:30 to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Please note this time change; the market originally planned to open at 8 a.m. and all press releases and web site information have shown this time.  I received notification of the change this morning. And according to the market’s recent press releases, they expect to open with about 60 vendors. Residents in the area will experience no interruption.

So, there you go: Four farmers markets, 7 market days.

I think it’s unfortunate that three markets take place simultaneously, on Saturday mornings, and two take place simultaneously, on Wednesday mornings. There’s a de facto competition between markets that take place at the same time on the same day in the same geographic area. Perhaps more importantly, though, a lot of shoppers simply cannot get to morning markets. Does this leave an opening for another new market, one that operates in the afternoon? I think there’s a customer base for it and I’d love to see it. And we just may get it; recently I’ve heard that plans are afoot for an afternoon market at a central Santa Rosa location. Stay tuned; once the information is confirmed, you’ll read about it here.