On Tuesday afternoons, more than a dozen farmers and other producers gather at the corner of North and Vine Streets in Healdsburg, in the Cerri Building lot, for the season’s mid-week market, which begins in June and continues through October.
The location of Healdsburg’s second market has shifted a few times. For years, the market was held in the town plaza, one block southeast of its current location. When the plaza closed for renovations, it thrived in the Cerri Building lot but returned to the plaza when it reopened. At the end of the 2009 season, farmers voted to return to the current location, where there is more parking and no competition from the plaza’s popular summer concert series.
Today, the market is thriving, with a mix of familiar producers who attend several markets a week and others who sell their harvest only in Healdsburg.
Among the well-known vendors is Bernier Farms, which currently has several varieties of widely-praised garlic; lettuce, arugula and salad mix; basil; chiles; carrots, a variety of summer squash, cabbage, cucumbers, chard and delicious eggs. Ortiz Farm is well-known, too; they seem to attend nearly every market in the county with their reasonably priced vegetables and flowers. They are currently harvesting radishes, green onions, leeks, summer squash, squash blossoms, cucumbers, green and yellow pole beans, carrots, potatoes, onions, broccoli, cabbage, cilantro, Italian parsley, lettuce and salad mix. Ortiz is just beginning to harvest tomatoes and they should have poblanos in another week or so.
Hector Alvarez, who also attends multiple markets, is on hand with his honey, honey products, some of the best eggs anywhere and produce, including a new crop of garlic and zucchini. He should have poblanos sometime soon, too.
If you’re looking for Padron chiles, Geyserville Gardens has them at this market, along with hot chiles, basil, blackberries, strawberries, tomatoes, chard, zucchini and other summer squash, squash blossoms, cucumbers, onions, eggplant, borage, herbs and plant starts.
Blasi Ranch, which in the spring has beautiful oranges, has the first Gravenstein apples of the season. Early Bird’s Place, located on Chalk Hill Rd., still has plant starts and is harvesting blackberries, summer squash, chard and potatoes.
Neufeld Farms attends with its stone fruit–apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums–from the San Joaquin Valley, Family Gourmet Farms has crimini and portobello mushrooms and Russian River Valley Produce has blackberries, leeks, zucchini, eggs and potted plants. Basurto Farm has summer squash, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, chiles and parsley.
A highlight of the Healdsburg farmers markets is Preston of Dry Creek. At their stall, you’ll find estate-grown produce–currently, apples, strawberries, peaches, cucumbers, beets, tomatillos, turnips, carrots, artichokes, fennel, bunching onions and a wonderful array of greens, including arugula, nettles, lettuces, mustard greens and collard greens. But that’s not all. Lou Preston has long been fascinated by fermentation, expressed first in his wine and then his extraordinary breads, available at the market, and now also in estate olives and some of the best sauerkraut you’ll ever taste.
Manual’s Family Farm, located on Eastside Rd. and new to the market this year, has lovely dahlias along with tomatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, blackberries and rhubarb.
There’s a great array of prepared foods here, too. If you’ve not tasted Dominique’s Sweets’s macarons yet, you are missing out.
Her oh-so-French macarons, made with local fruits, are exquisite, light little nibbles of heaven. If you need a special gift for someone, a box of these ethereal treats is perfect. Her delicious galettes and pies are also made with local fruits.
Savvy Productions, a catering company based in Healdsburg, has small buns perfect for sliders, bread and butter pickles, pocket pies, jams and Popsicles made with local fruit. Rosso Pizza is on hand with its mobile wood-burning oven and offers a “market pizza,” featuring ingredients they buy on the spot from participating farmers.
The market participates in the CalFresh program and matches Electronic Benefit Dollars with up to twenty market dollars, thanks to several donations.
There’s often music at the market, duets and trios playing acoustically, with surprise guests now and then, including the Love Choir and a classically trained opera singer.
Mary Kelley has managed the Healdsburg farmers markets since 2004 and she does a great job, with a good balance of vendors and special events throughout the season.
Kelley has kept the tradition of an opening bell for both markets, something all markets once did though many have now discontinued the practice. In Healdsburg markets, you can browse if you show up early but you can’t make any purchases until the cow bell sounds promptly at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays. This tradition not only gives all vendors time to get set up; it also helps level the playing field for shoppers. It is really annoying to show up on time only to find out that those treasured first tomatoes or Padron chiles were snagged by an early bird. Brava, Mary, for keeping this going!