Sacramento Public Market May Have Found a Home

By Mary Kimball (Guest Blogger)

Mary Kimball, Center for Land-Based Learning
Mary Kimball, Center for Land-Based Learning


Location, location, location.

The Sacramento Valley Amtrak Station, built in 1926, is the second busiest station in California, and the 7th busiest in the entire United States. If you are one of the 1.2 million Amtrak passengers who pass through this Station at 4th and “I” Street downtown each year, you have probably wondered why we don’t do more with that unique, centrally-located building.

We think we have the answer: make the Sacramento Valley Station the home of the Sacramento Public Market.

Earlier this year, the Sacramento Public Market team (which includes strategy consultant Joe Rodota of Forward Observer, attorney Jeff Dorso of Pioneer Law Group; developer Richard Rich; and Steve Carlin, operator of Oxbow Public Market in Napa), wrote to Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Manager John Shirey and recommended the city move forward and develop a regional public market at the Sacramento Valley Station.

Since announcing the campaign at the city’s first Farm-to-Fork festival in October 2013, the group looked at several sites in the city.  The Sacramento Valley Station, met all of the essential requirements.

The station is architecturally interesting and ready now. Amtrak is relocating all of its operations to the western end of the building – the former station restaurant. The area to the east of the entrance hall has a great interior space as well as doors that open to the outside.  The current entrance hall has potential as event space.  Upstairs offices could house food- and agriculture-related businesses and organizations.

Once the current renovations are complete, the station would have approximately 20,000 square feet of space for a regional public market.  And over time, once the new Amtrak station is built behind the current historic building, the entire facility could be home to the public market and related activities.

What’s more, the Sacramento Valley Station is located just a few blocks from the new Entertainment and Sports Center district, future home to the Sacramento Kings. The Amtrak and light rail lines serving new Kings arena will bring additional foot traffic to the station. The new West Sacramento Urban Farm program, run by the Center for Land-Based Learning, is just a short (Edible Pedal) bike ride away, over the I Street Bridge.

Most critical to the public market, the Sacramento region boasts an agricultural economy of approximately $3.8 billion – about the size of the Seattle-area fish industry.  But while Seattle has the iconic Pike Place Market, Sacramento has been without a public market since the 1970s. This region is also home to more farmers producing for the local and regional economy than anywhere else in the United States.

The original Sacramento Valley station was the terminal for the Central Pacific Railroad.  Being a California history lover, I like to think of all the station has seen, the people who have passed through, and the lives that it has impacted in the last 90 + years.

It’s time to put this station back on the map for this generation’s Sacramento; we have the opportunity to directly connect the greatest strength of our region – agriculture  – with the future of our downtown, and our communities growing interest in having a personal connection to their food system.

It’s time to develop a regional public market at the Sacramento Valley Station as the next great civic amenity of our city and region.



Mary Kimball
is the Executive Director of the Center of Land Based Learning, based in Winters, CA; She grew up on a 20-acre farm near Woodland, and her great-great-grandfather Lyman Ruggles was a California Pioneer, arriving in Sacramento in 1950. 

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