Just as the reality of drought settled in, the rains came, welcome, wonderful and disruptive, especially of early spring’s harvest. The effect was all over the Sebastopol farmers market on the last Sunday in March.
Farmers don’t skip a market because it is wet outside. In some instances–Sebastopol’s Laguna Farms, for example–heavy rains prevent them from getting into their fields to pick. Others can get into certain fields but not others. Hector Alvarez and Triple T Farm could not get to their asparagus patches, thus one of the season’s most anticipated crops was nowhere to be found.
The forecast matters, too, manager Paula Downing says.
With a deluge predicted, she explains, as it was for Sunday, farmers don’t pick a lot because attendance likely will be low and Sunday is the end of their week. Farmers, she continues, give unsold produce to the Ceres Community Project or the food bank but with profit margins so low they try to pick just what they can sell.
Yet nary a raindrop fell during the duration of the market. That’s nature for you; she always has the final word.
What did make it to market was gorgeous.
Tierra Vegetables has the first cardoons–a cousin of the artichoke–I’ve seen this year, along with heirloom beans, dried chile products and late winter produce.
Tom Noble of Armstrong Valley Farm had plump heads of tender red butter lettuce, the last of a late winter planting. He also still has plenty of citrus, eggs, potatoes, kale and cabbage.
Triple T’s selections couldn’t be more beautiful, with boxes full of baby spinach, braising greens, chard and spring mix. Leeks, carrots and parsley seemed washed clean by the rain and even watercress was unusually brilliant. This east Santa Rosa farm has plenty of winter squashes, winter greens and eggs, too.
Among Orchard Farms’s diverse harvest was something I’d not seen before, parsnips with pert greens–good sauteed and in soups–attached. Ken Orchard didn’t seem to have trouble getting into his fields, as his booth was as abundant as ever, with leeks, spring onions, spring onions, carrots, radishes, cabbage, fennel, several types of broccoli, turnips, beets, kales, chards, burdock, cauliflower, salad mix and more.
Nathan Boone’s First Light Farm has dry-farmed potatoes, chard, kale, collards, cabbages, spinach, salad mix, arugula, parsley, tatsoi, salad mix and his popular pea and sunflower sprouts. Hector Alvarez, despite some flooded fields, has pretty spring onions, dried garlic, spaghetti squash, eggs, potatoes and honey.
Nancy Skall of Middleton Farm has just begun harvesting her extraordinary asparagus but not enough, yet, for the market. Her fennel, sunchokes, leeks, nettles, beets, parsley, green garlic, aged garlic and a small basket of small red torpedo onions, resting above gorgeous camellias, are as beautiful and delicious as ever.
Rain doesn’t directly affect most protein purveyors. Dave Legros has plenty of salmon, crab, flounder, clam chowder and more. Owen Family Farms has rabbit, veal, lamb, beef and pork. Freestone Ranch has eggs, broiler chickens and grass-fed beef and two cheese vendors, Weirauch Farm & Creamery and Bodega Goat Cheese, offer delicious handcrafted cheeses.
Rainbow’s End Farm’s stall was enlivened by gorgeous bouquets alongside eggs, dried fruit, condiments and delicious herb and marionberry agua frescas. Full Circle has hearth breads made with organic grains and Dominique’s Sweets offered Cornish meat pies along with macarons, pies and other sweet nibbles.
Not Yer Momma’s Granola, The Hummus Guy and knife sharpener Art Downing braved the forecast but craft vendors opted to stay home.
The Sebastopol farmers market, founded in 1994, takes place year round on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the town plaza, located at the corner of McKinley and Petaluma Avenues.