My favorite time to visit the Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market is in October, when there’s a chill in the air. The market is a delight any time of year but there’s something about October’s markets that I find irresistible, especially in Occidental, where the town, nestled as it is in a natural canyon, is embraced by towering redwoods that ring the ridge top. Fall light pours through the trees and bathes the market in a golden glow, which encourages shoppers to linger until last light.
Earlier this year, the market expanded and now stretches a full three blocks, through the long wide parking lot that begins at Howard’s Station.
There are more than a dozen produce vendors, several that sell eggs, two bakeries, two ranches with local grass-fed meats and several purveyors of prepared foods.
Familiar vendors with a diverse harvest include Armstrong Valley Farm, First Light Farm, French Garden Farm and New Family Farm. You’ll find delicious tomatoes, a diverse selection of salad greens and braising greens, herbs, chiles and peppers, carrots, eggplant, onions, garlic, potatoes, cabbage, radishes, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, winter squash and more.
Singing Frogs Farm attends the Occidental market as well as the Santa Rosa market on Saturday. The Sebastopol farm also operates a thriving CSA, which offers eggs, bread, olive oil and brown rice as add-on options, along with a diverse harvest that currently includes tomatoes, peppers, beets, eggplant, greens, cucumbers, cabbage, muskmelons, watermelons, pumpkins and other winter squash, flowers and more.
Bloomfield Farms, which attends the Petaluma Market and the new market in Bodega Bay as well as the Occidental market, always has a diverse selection of freshly-picked produce. Currently, they have tomatoes, a big selection of greens, little red beets and huge golden beets, summer squash, winter squash, broccoli and onions. They are also one of the only vendors I’ve seen with spinach.
Among the vendors you won’t see elsewhere is Hands Full Farm, which currently has gorgeous heirloom corn and delicious carrots in an array of beautiful colors. Star Mountain Gardens also sells only at this market; the farm produces an array of vegetables and flowers and has partnered with another farm that grows citrus; you’ll find things–seed pods, for example, and unusual flowers–at this farm’s stall that you won’t see anywhere else.
“Vine Hill Farm has the most beautiful flower arrangements I’ve ever seen,” Kim Dow, director of the market. says. John Maier and his daughter assemble the dazzling bouquets and John sells them, along with the vegetables his sweet little farm producers.
Rainbow’s End Farm, which also attends the Sebastopol market, has excellent eggs and a unique selection of both produce and prepared foods. If you need a healthy pick-me-up, the agua frescas, full of great herbs, will do the trick.
Bohemian Well-Being Farm, which is based in Occidental, attends with their specialty mushrooms.
Bloomfield Bees has a selection of honeys and beeswax candles. Valley Ford Cheese Co. offers its award-winning cheeses and there are two salmon vendors. Paul Thornton of Paul’s Smoked Salmon attends most weeks and, when he does, Carson’s Catch offers only its fresh Alaskan salmon. On those weeks when Paul isn’t at the market, they also offer their smoked salmon.
Capay Olive Oil attended the market for most of the season but they’ve now sold out. It’s hard to know what olive oil vendors will be doing next year, as there is virtually no local olive harvest this year. Other regions of California were not necessarily hit as hard as the North Bay but quantities are down throughout the state.
When it comes to meats, Victorian Farmstead is on one end of the market and Swallow Valley Farm is on the other end. Swallow Valley, located between Valley Ford and Bodega, has Katahdin lamb, chicken, turkey, duck and pastured eggs. This is a farm to watch, as they expect to begin production on farmstead cheese soon and will also be offering berries and vegetables next year.
Victorian Farmstead, located in Sebastopol, has excellent eggs, chicken, lamb, pork, beef and sausage and is currently accepting orders for turkeys that will be available as of November 21. The farm operates a meat CSA and just added a Chick-a-Week subscription, which offers a delicious chicken weekly for three months, six months or twelve months. The longer your subscription, the lower the price.
Two bakeries attend the market. Casa LaBelle Breads of Monte Rio has been at the market all season and Raymond’s Bakery of Cazadero recently began attending. Raymond’s also attends the Bodega Bay market and has some of the best breads I’ve ever tasted.
When it comes to prepared foods, there is plenty to enjoy both at the market and to take home. Pizza from Kashaya’s Brick Oven Pizza just gets better and better and you can frequently see Kashaya running through the market to buy more fresh produce from Bloomfield Farms. She produces the best pizza I’ve had in the Bay Area.
J & S Orchards attends with a special seasonal treat, fresh apple juice.
Lata’s Indian Food is full of good, true Indian flavors and Lata’s chai is outstanding. It’s the real thing, with all flavors perfectly in balance and just the right amount of sweetness. Each sip is like a little trip to India.
Mommy’s Yammys offers delicious eastern Mediterranean dishes, accompanied by excellent fruit beverages. I particularly like the tender pita sandwiches.
The Hummus Guy is on hand, too, much to the delight of one-year-old Pearl, Kim Dow’s daughter, whose first favorite food was hummus. It has become a tradition for Pearl to run to the booth for a hug and a nibble.
And for everyone who can’t resist, there’s Salt Side Down Chocolates.
The Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market takes place on Friday afternoons; it begins at 4 p.m. and wraps up at sundown. It continues through the end of the month and concludes with its colorful and exuberant Harvest Festival, which should be on everyone’s calendar. It’s one of the best events of the season.