The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market greeted Saturday morning from its new home in the southeast parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. By 8:30 a.m., the market’s official opening time, it was full of shoppers. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief, as two years of tension, anxiety, unhappiness and hard work receded and a new era was born.
Although the space is about 25 percent smaller than its former location at the Veterans Building, it feels bigger. There are two aisles, one through the parking lot and another perpendicular to this one, forming a huge “t,” with a vineyard immediately behind it and an unobstructed view of the hills beyond. There is plenty of shade and some of the vendors are on ground, not asphalt. Nearby is a big expanse of grass. The market’s information booth is in the center, where the two aisles meet. On both ends of the shorter aisle there are shaded tables and chairs.
Raymond’s Bakery, with its extraordinary hand-crafted hearth breads–chewy baguettes, sourdough loaves, whole wheat loaves, pumpkin bread and lots of focaccia– is the first vendor you see.
Across the aisle, three woodworkers offer everything from bird, bat and dog houses and chicken coops to planters and outside potting tables.
Early summer fruit is everywhere. Schletewitz Farm has apricots, white peaches, yellow peaches, oranges, grapefruit and raisins. The Peach Farm has apricots, too, along with Garnett cherries and summer squash. EGB Farms has peaches, nectaries, apricots, nuts and three varieties of cherries, Garnett, Rainier and Bing. Busalacchi Farms has cherries (Rainier and Bing) and avocados.
DeSantis Farms has plenty of citrus, including Seville oranges, though it’s about the end of Meyer lemon season. They also have fresh green almonds and a fresh crops of walnuts and pecans.
Hector Alvarez has eggs, Eureka lemons, potatoes, favas, garlic scapes, fresh garlic, dried chiles and asparagus in addition to his honey and honey products.
Min-Hee Hill Garden will have cabbage for another week or so. They also have beautiful lettuces, carrots, braising greens, beets with greens attached and more. First Light Farm/Oh! Tommy Boy’s Organic Farm has lettuce mix, pea shoots, sunflower sprouts and earthy dry-farmed potatoes. Foggy Riverhas eggs, favas, pea shoots, garlic scapes, favas and kale.
Orchard Farms’ selection is as big and diverse as ever, with burdock root, parsnips, radishes, carrots, lettuce, bok choy, leeks, braising greens, peas, beets and more. Singing Frog’s spring season has kicked in, too, with sugar snap peas, favas, Napa cabbage, kale, chard, zucchini, beets, escarole, lettuces, broccoli, white cauliflower, spinach, spring onions, parsley, the first cucumbers of the year and lots of fragrant basil.
Armstrong Valley Farm has plenty of Eureka lemons, just-harvested garlic, spring onions, winter squash, chard, red Romaine lettuce, enormous heads of red butter lettuce and eggs. Bernier Farms of Geyserville has asparagus, basil, green garlic, sugar snap peas, leeks, spring onions, green garlic, French breakfast radishes, carrots, cabbage, arugula kohlrabi, lettuces, salad mix and a good selection of herbs.
The adorable Beet Generation Farm launched its 2012 season on Saturday, with eggs, kale and chard mix, beautiful lettuces, Italian parsley, cilantro, mint, colorful little cobs of popping corn and bags of popped corn. Redwood Empire Farm is back, too, with gorgeous heads of broccoli, purple cauliflower, green cauliflower and favas.
Offerings of the Land has a few plant starts, pretty bouquets and its signature salad mix, a hearty, diverse blend of greens, flower petals and more. Harvest Moon Ranch, new to this market, has lettuce, snow peas, green garlic and pristine little turnips.
Bohemian Well Being Farm has a big array of mushrooms right now, though it will be a few weeks before they have more maitake. Kelley Parsons of Parsons Home Grown Tomatoes has plenty of hot-house tomatoes, perfect for salsas and fresh pasta sauces.
Waihrauch Farm and Creamery is new at this market with their organic cows milk cheeses. DeBernadi Dairy’s Two Rock Valley Cheese has a booth, too.
Franco’s One World Sausage, which uses local meats, varies their selections each week and all are excellent, though chorizo is my personal favorite. There’s Sebastopol-raised grass-fed lamb from Williams Ranches, heritage meat-breed chickens from Pepper Ranch Road and a selection of pork and beef from Black Sheep Farm, including a new batch of delicious bacon. Owen Family Farm has goat, lamb, veal, pork and beef and John Ford Ranch has a wide array of cuts of beef.
Before 10 a.m., Salmon Creek Ranch was nearly sold out of their Angus beef and was doing a brisk business with fresh Pekin duck, goat (including merguez!) and duck eggs.
Oz Family Farm of Alexander Valley has what may be the most interesting combination of offerings: Rabbit meat and rabbit manure. Now that’s sustainable farming.
Carson’s Catch has expanded. In addition to fresh-frozen Alaskan wild salmon, smoked salmon and cod, they have a second booth with oyster-on-the-half-shell, grilled oysters, salmon tacos and cod tacos.
Costeaux Bakery has delicious hearth breads, specialty breads and French-style baguette sandwiches, and there’s olive oil from Stonehouse.
When it comes to prepared foods to enjoy on the spot or take home, there’s an abundance of riches, including New Orleans Style Beignets, Lata’s Indian Cuisine, Ultimate Souvlaki, Mi Fiesta’s tamales, enchiladas, tortillas and salsa and Rosso’s wood-fired pizza. Mateo Granados has Yucatan tamales, along with huevos ranchereos, chilaquiles, a changing selection of seasonal specialties and great agua fresca. There’s excellent brewed-on-the-spot coffee from Gaga Cafe and Runaround Brew.
Dominique’s Sweets has French macarons, tarts and galettes, other sweet pastries and meat pasties. Crumb Hither Bakery has sweets, including bite-sized cupcakes. If you’re looking for chocolate bonbons and truffles, you’ll find the best in the county at Gandolf’s stall. Worth Our Weight has yummy sweet and savory pastries at the red and yellow cart that the Guy Fieri Foundation donated to the culinary apprenticeship program.
Guerilla Food offers flatbreads, quiche and other baked goods in an adorably-decorated booth. Mama Baretta hs a large selection of vegan, gluten-free and soy-free baked goods. Waterhorse Ridge offers an array of home-style condiments, including dipping sauces, pickled peppers, tapenades and chutneys. The Hue De Laroque Farm has a big selection of infused balsamic vinegars, jams and dripping sauces. Bliss Bakery has gluten-free baked goods.
East West Gourmet Foods has an excellent selection of Middle Eastern breads, dips and sauces, which you can sample on the spot.
St. Rose Winery attends with its excellent pinot nor and a second product, pinot noir for cooking, a great ingredient. Two vendors, Redel’s Roasted Almonds and Nut-N-Other Farms, have almonds.
The market includes several vendors with plants for your home and garden, including unusual orchids and other tropical plants from X-Oticals and irises from My Wild Iris Rows. Edgeworks will sharpen your knives while you shop and a selection of local crafts–from clothing to pottery–round out the market.
By any measure, Saturday was a successful launch of an untested location. I heard many shoppers exclaim that they had no idea such a market existed and were thrilled to find it so close to home.
“Where was their former location?” one man asked. If that doesn’t signal a new era, I don’t know what does.
The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, founded in 1978 and currently managed by Paula Downing, takes place from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays and 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays year round, rain or shine. It is located in the southeast parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Spring Rd.