The Petaluma Farmers Market, located in Walnut Park a few blocks south of downtown, opens for its 26th season this Saturday, May 19. There will be about 50 vendors, most of them returning, a few new.

Many of the vendors attend several markets a week. Among them are Hector Alvarez, with honey, honey products, eggs, garlic, chiles and other vegetables. The Patch starts its 2012 season here; you can expect early zucchini, onions, potatoes and such from this Sonoma farm, which is usually the first with local tomatoes, too, though not for several weeks yet. Laguna Farms of Sebastopol is here and currently has gorgeous spring onions, very nice carrots, beets, lettuces, salad mix, radishes, several types of basil, other herbs and a big array of braising greens.

Ortiz Farm of Santa Rosa, which attends markets throughout the county, currently has an excellent selection of greens, along with potatoes, radishes, cabbages, Italian parsley, cilantro, onions, green onions, potatoes, flowers, wreaths and more. Bloomfield Farms returns this year, too, with mid-spring produce. Let Us Farm has an array of greens and other vegetables, including very nice lettuces.

Schletewitz Family Farm has stone fruit, including the first apricots of the season and delicious white nectarines. Chris Gertz and Neufeld Farms both have stone fruit, too, and Neufeld also has dried fruit.

Petaluma Bounty attends this market with their diverse and pristine harvest, which includes vegetables, fruit and flowers, all in pretty little baskets and vases. Krout’s Sunset Ranch’s stall always offers an unusual selection of produce, often with an interesting story to go with it. Vikki Medina Straub’s GVM Farm is a visual thrill, a kaleidoscope of handmade signs, newspaper and magazine articles, colorful popcorn, eggs, onions, garlic, little bouquets and whatever else she happens to be harvesting. I would expect tomato starts, from seeds she has saved herself.

Busalacchi Farms of Stockton currently has cherries and avocados. Ramon de la Herran, who farms near Los Banos, has strawberries and assorted spring vegetables, including garlic and zucchini.

Among the new vendors are William Dobbs and Thea Rittenhouse, both with assorted vegetables.

Both Pepper Ranch Poultry and Victorian Farmstead will be attending this market for the first time. Pepper Ranch has eggs and excellent heritage meat-breed chickens. Victorian Farmstead has eggs, chicken, lamb, pork and beef, all raised in Sebastopol. Paul Thornton attends with his enormously popular smoked salmon. Carson’s Catch is here, too, with excellent smoked, fresh-frozen Alaskan salmon and, sometimes, cod.

There are two cheese vendors, Dan DeBernardi with aged goat cheese made a few miles west in Two Rock, and Valley Ford Cheese Company, with its popular Estero Gold and Highway One.

There’s plenty for the home gardener at this market. Salvador Aguilar has a beautiful array of plants, Tamarya Hulme  has tomato starts and Sally Dawson has trees and plant starts.

There are two olive oil vendors here. Byerbri  Olive Orchard’s olive oil is a blend of manzanillo and sevillano olives, Spanish varieties with a long history in California. Saltonstall Estates, located on Spring Hill Rd. in west Petaluma, makes olive oil using frantoio, leccino, maurino and pendolino olives, all Italian varietals.

Bloomfield Bees sells honey, candles and beeswax.

Crane Creek has gorgeous flowers.

There is plenty of prepared food at this market, both to enjoy on the spot and to take home. There’s a traditional taco truck, Lonchera La Cruz, which is my choice if I need a nibble.

Bread is from Panorama Bread Co., currently based in San Francisco but founded, in the mid 1990s, in Petaluma.

Nan’s Gourmet Foods of Vallejo offers a huge range of products, included sauces, marinades, tapenades, pasta, olive oils and vinegar. If you like Indian cuisine, take a look Quick N E-Zee Indian Foods, where you’ll find sauces, condiments and more. The Hummus Guy is here, as is Lifestyle Granola, Redel Roasted Almonds and Wish Upon a Cupcake.

There is always a dozen or so arts and crafts vendors at this market, along with live music and plenty of things for kids to do. It is a happy place and its opening signals, at least to me, the beginning of the summer season, even though the calendar isn’t quite there yet.

The Petaluma Farmers Market, which is a member of the California Federation of Certified Farmers’ Markets, was founded in 1987. For the last 18 years, it has been managed by Erica Burns-Gorman, who now serves as the market’s executive director and will attend most Saturdays this seasons. Kelly Smith, who started farmers markets in Marinwood and Glen Ellen, is the new manager; Alyx–CQ–Cucci, who has worked at Tara Firmax–CQ–Farms in Petaluma, is assistant manager.

The Saturday market takes place in Walnut Park, at Petaluma Blvd. South and D St. from May 19 to November 17. It opens at 2 and closes at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit