The Petaluma Certified Farmers Market is one of just a few afternoon markets. It opened for its 25th season on May 21 and continues through November 19 from 2 to 5:30 p.m. in Walnut Park, located at the corner of Petaluma Blvd. South and D St. The timing benefits not just Petalumans who can’t get to a morning market but also many farmers and other vendors. Some farms are large enough that they can attend markets that take place at the same time but others, such as Paul’s Smoked Salmon and Carson’s Catch, are not. Paul Thornton attends the Healdsburg market on Saturday mornings and then heads down to Petaluma with his delicious smoked wild Pacific king salmon. You’ll find Carson’s Catch at the Santa Rosa market on Saturday mornings and in Petaluma in the afternoon with their smoked salmon and wild Alaskan sockeye salmon.
At this market, farmers, ranchers and cheese makers line the south side of the park at 4th St., with Paul’s salmon on the east end and Petaluma Bounty Farm on the west. In between you’ll find everything from freshly picked basil to lamb, pork and beef raised a few miles away. Most vendors of prepared foods are grouped together opposite the farmers, with crafts arranged a bit closer to the center of the park, where there’s live music on the bandstand. Bread, foods to enjoy on the spot and a few other prepared foods flank E St.
On a hot afternoon in early July, there is a languid air about the market, as customers cluster under the park’s shady trees or scoot under canopies as they chat with producers. There are parasols here and there, adding a festive air, as parasols always do.
The most dramatic display is Vikki Medina Straub’s GVM Farm, which is located a few miles from the market, on Lohrman Lane just west of town. The farm’s diverse harvest is punctuated by colorful handprinted signs, photographs and articles. There’s sugar peas; eggs; little bouquets; potatoes; four varieties of popcorn, some in baggies, some still on the cob; little zucchini; red candy onions; several varieties of garlic; tomato plants grown from their own saved seeds; grass-fed beef and pork and an opportunity to order lamb that will be available in the fall.
Ortiz Brothers has wreaths, beautiful gladiolas, and a huge array of vegetables, including leeks, green and purple cabbage, carrots, green onions, kale, chard, cilantro, parsley and cucumber. One day soon, they’ll have poblanos and it will be time to make pozole.
Krout’s Sunset Ranch has several varieties of garlic, including Georgia Fire, Red German, Siberian, Music and Purple Glazer. This local farm is also selling Walla Walla, yellow and red sweet onions, snap peas, basil, zucchini, pakchoi and Costata Romanesco squash, perfect for stuffing.
Bohemian Well-Being Farm has several species of mushrooms and The Patch of Sonoma has both red and white onions, yellow and green zucchini; potatoes, beets and their always gorgeous and delicious carrots. This farm is the first of the year with green beans, too, and are currently harvesting both Blue Lakes and Romanos. Schletewitz Family Farm of Sanger, which attends several local markets, has stone fruit, including green plums and apricots. Sebastopol Berry Farm attends this market and by late in the day, all that remains are olallieberries; if you want raspberries, you need to arrive early. The golden raspberries are the first to go.
There is plenty of locally raised grass-fed meat here. Tara Firma Farm, located a few miles south on I St., has several cuts of beef, ranging from $7 a pound for ground to $21 for ribeye steak, and a few cuts of pork, including picnic roasts for $8.50 a pound and chops for $14.50 a pound. Swallow Valley Farm, located between Valley Ford and Bodega, has lamb with prices ranging from $3 a pound for bones to $16 a pound for racks. Its pork ranges in price from $5 a pound for stew meat to $10 a pound for roasts. Ground beef is $8 a pound. This ranch also has lamb sausage, maple sausage and bratwurst.
Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese offers its aged cheeses, which have pleasantly dense textures and wonderfully nutty flavors.
By late afternoon, Petaluma Bounty Farm has sold nearly everything it brought to the market. Of the kale, radishes, collar greens, head lettuces, strawberries, sweet peas, bouquets and salad mix they offered at the start of the day, only a bit of kale, a few heads of lettuce and a few herbs remain.
Laguna Farms is nearly sold out, too, and is offering what remains–a basketful of basil, a few bunches of cilantro–at reduced prices.
Several vendors have plant starts, including for beautiful flowers, and if you are looking for bouquets, this is a great place to find them.
Hector Alvarez sells his honey and honey products here, along with nopales, garlic, dried chiles and tomato plants. The Hummus Guy is here and Sukhi’s Home Chef Collection has a huge selection of Indian sauces. La Saison Specialty Foods of Napa Valley offers a variety of prepared foods, most of which are vegan and gluten-free; they are probably best known for their almonds and date wheels. There’s granola, pasta sauces, marinades, condiments and spice mixtures, too.
When it comes to crafts, there is an enormous array, from tiny hand painted rocks and seashells, jewelry, crocheted items and beautiful handmade wood products. I found two items particularly engaging. Next to a display about the earthquake and tidal wave in Japan is a display of tiny origami earrings, little cranes of every color, with beads that either match or complement the folded paper birds. I left the market with a single pair but will head back soon, as they make perfect gifts. Aprons made from reclaimed fabrics and remnants by A Girl and a Dog are adorable, in a sweet girly-girl way. The little company, based in Petaluma, also bakes cookies but they are not sold at this market.
Three Twins Ice Cream of Petaluma has a booth, too, with both ice cream to go and plenty to enjoy on the spot, including ice cream cookie sandwiches, reason enough for many people to head to this market.
Erica Burns-Gorman manages the Petaluma Certified Farmers Markets, including the Saturday market and a Wednesday evening market that takes place in the Theater District from 3:40 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday evenings from June 1 to August 21. For more information about the Petaluma Certified Farmers Market, including a calendar of special events and music, visit petalumafarmersmarket.com.