All but one of our seasonal farmers markets have closed for the year; the Windsor market continues through December 18. This leaves three markets, operating on four days, from now until the 2012 season begins in early spring. Sebastopol, which takes place in the town plaza on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., is now year round, much to the delight of both vendors and residents of west county. The Friday market in Sonoma, which takes place from 9 a.m. to noon in Depot park, has been year round for more than a decade. The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market takes place on Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon and on Saturday’s from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the east parking lot of the Veterans Building; it has always been a year-round market.
I will continue to cover each of these markets monthly but I’m adding farm stands to the mix for now, as there are several throughout the county that are open year round and make excellent destinations for fresh produce and other farmstead foods, either to augment what you get at your local farmers market or to substitute for it when you must miss a week.
First up is the French Garden Farm in Sebastopol, so close to where I live that I can walk to it. It functions very much like a farmers market, which is to say it is not open daily, as many other farm stands are; it is open on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The stand is located in the parking lot of the French Garden Restaurant and Bistro (8050 Bodega Ave.), about three miles from the farm itself.
Lilia Viramontes is the face of the farm, familiar not only to customers who stop by the stand but also to shoppers at farmers markets throughout the county. At the height of summer, she seemed to be everywhere with her beautifully organized stall. On those days when she can’t be at the stand, Bradley Thompson will take the helm.
Currently, the harvest includes several types of lettuce, chard, Lacinato kale, green onions, baby leeks, medium leeks, Nantes carrots, French breakfast radishes with pert greens attached and several types of beets, also with greens that are perfect for sautes and soup. You’ll also find microgreens, arugula, cabbage, sunchokes, parsnips, butternut squash, acorn squash, Delicata squash, spaghetti squash, a few pumpkins, celery, purple rutabaga, raddichio, mizuna and purple cauliflower. There will likely be chiles–Corni di Toro, poblanos, bells and baby bells–for another two weeks. On Sunday, there were just a few potatoes left from this year’s harvest, along with apples.
Milan turnips are just starting to come in, as is broccoli.
You’ll even find sugar snap peas, planted in the fall, for another week or two.
The restaurant’s chef, Arturo Guzman, is now participating in the farm stand, with freshly-made soups ($6 a pint) and fruit pies ($8 each). On Sunday, the offerings were butternut squash soup and both apple and pumpkin pies.
According to Dan Smith, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Joan Marler, their property–there are currently five acres under cultivation–is ideal for year-round farming, with more activity taking place in the winter than in the summer months. Unless there are extraordinary weather conditions, expect the stand to operate year-round.