On July 7, a farmers market opened on Thursday morning in west Santa Rosa, the first farmers market within the city on the west side of Highway 101. This Thursday is its final day of the year.
Four vendors participate, two that offer a diverse selection of produce and two that offer fruit. There are no crafts vendors, no prepared food vendors, no seafood, meat or poultry vendors, just delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. In a sense, you can say this market has been the quintessential market, delivering the farmers market vision of fresh produce in its purest form.
The Patch sells here and currently has a great selection of some of the best tomatoes–both heirloom and hybrid–of anyone this year, along with a rainbow of sweet peppers, zucchini, beets, green beans, onions, garlic, basil, cucumbers and potatoes. The quality of produce from this farm is always reliably delicious and always well-priced.
Ortiz Farms, also a reliably excellent producer, has zucchini, cabbage, radishes, onions, potatoes, cilantro, Italian parsley, squash blossoms, zucchini, a big selection of braising greens, a small selection of tomatoes, gorgeous delicious poblanos and a few other chiles and beautiful flowers, including long stalks of gladiolus and pretty sunflowers.
Fruit is from Eddie Chavez’s EGB Farms of Ripon and Schletewitz Farm of Sanger. Both have had an excellent selection of stone fruit throughout the season and both offer tastes, so that you can select varieties that you know you like.
“We opened this market with a very specific goal,” market manager Nancy Sumida says, “to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables among low income groups, especially women and children. Exposing kids to fruits and vegetables that taste really good is how they start eating them.”
To further this goal, the market is situated in front of WIC (the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, administered by the county), behind the back entrance to J. C. Penney’s in Coddingtown.
Each year, WIC distributes $20 coupon books for fresh fruit and vegetables to a thousand local families. In past years, half of these coupons have gone unredeemed. This year, the coupons have been handed out at the market itself and although statistics are not yet available for the season, it appears that participation has been much greater.
The market has featured a cooking demonstration and tasting each week, an attraction that quickly developed a loyal following. Some customers attend weekly, some attend twice a month and all seem very pleased to have such easy access to good produce.
“For many people who attend this market,” Sumida says, “101 is a barrier. Many west siders consider anything on the east side of the freeway too far away, especially when transportation is an issue. Taking a bus to the Veterans Building [where the other markets are held] is really difficult.
Although attendance has seemed slow to some, including Sumida, Paula Downing, manager of the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market–the Thursday market is a satellite of this market–has observed attendance and feels it is on target for a brand new market.
When I asked Sumida if the market would open next year, she said she wasn’t sure but that she hoped it would.
“If the market is to continue, it needs a more visible location, especially for the vendors,” she sayd, “People need to see the market again and again before it becomes a habit.”
Downing, Surmida and others involved in this year’s inaugural market are discussing possibilities for the 2012 season.
In the meantime, you have one more chance, Thursday morning, from 8:30 a.m. until noon.
Also of note: I’ve been asked to remind readers that the Healdsburg Tuesday Market is still open and will remain so through October 25. Apparently, many shoppers believe that most seasonal markets conclude as of Labor Day.
The Healdsburg Tuesday Market takes place in the lot next to the Cerri building, one block north west of the town plaza. It opens at 4 p.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m.