Newsletter‎ > ‎April 2018‎ > ‎

The Changing Face of North San Juan

posted Apr 2, 2018, 10:45 AM by Kristin Snell

by Diana Pasquini, San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center

Of the many California Gold Rush settlements on the San Juan Ridge, North San Juan has survived as the last functioning town site. “Small but mighty,” she has withstood the ravages of time and continues to provide an assortment of goods and services for those who live in our densely forested, sparsely populated foothill community. Slowly but surely, the face of North San Juan is being changed by local entrepreneurs who have seized upon the opportunity to fill a community need, often providing jobs for others. This article is one of a series that showcases the people and businesses that are changing the face of North San Juan.

Sweetland Garden Mercantile:

Meet Darlene Markey

Born and raised in New York State, Darlene Markey has made her home on the San Juan Ridge since 1983. Soon after her arrival she began volunteering in our local schools, then moved on to working in the classroom as a teacher’s aide. She also managed the AIC Youth Center’s program in North San Juan. Darlene then worked directly with families who received cash aid. She was a case worker, motivational speaker, and activist for women, helping them dress for the workplace and prepare for job interviews. During that time, she also created two job fairs. Darlene then earned her teaching credential from Sac State and taught for the next 16 years, spending two years teaching in Guatemala, then continuing her teaching career at Grizzly Hill, Oak Tree, and Washington Schools. Now a businesswoman, as well as an educator, Darlene Markey owns Sweetland Garden Mercantile in the town of North San Juan.

“I was looking to work in an industry that promoted sustainability. I’ve always had a life-long love of gardening; so in 2006 I bought the store and started teaching people how to grow organically. Sweetland Garden Mercantile is a woman-created business. We offer classes in soil amending, organic gardening, microbiology, and compost tea. In 2018 we expanded to become a mercantile, as well as a garden center. Our goal is to meet the Ridge’s household project needs. We carry hardware, small tools, chainsaw equipment, drill bits and plumbing supplies as well as gardening supplies. We still offer the same gardening advice that we always have and we still offer deliveries.”

Open 9am-6pm Monday-Friday and 9am-5pm Saturday, Sweetland Garden Mercantile is located at 29435 Hwy 49, N. San Juan. For more info call 292.9000 or check out their website at

Upcoming events at Sweetland Garden Mercantile:

Soil amendment classes – April 14 & 28 10am – noon

GRAND OPENING (food, vendors & sample products) –April 20 noon - 4pm