Summer treasures sparkle like almost-hidden jewels at the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday. Tucked amongst Rainbow’s End Farm’s harvest of several varieties of tiny plums are the first Santa Rosa plums of the season, plump juicy scarlet spheres. Most farmers say to expect the famous plum in mid or late July but these have ripened early. I take a bite and offer a silent thank you to Luther Burbank: If there is a better plum, I’ve not found it.
This west county farm also has red currants, sold on Sunday in little baskets of mixed berries, along with eggs, herb spreads and other condiments and extraordinary agua frescas. Santa Rosa Creek Farm has fresh currants, too, along with chocolate mint, arugula and bouquets.
The Peach Farm, which has some of the year’s first heirloom tomatoes, has Padron chiles, bigger than I’ve seen before but wonderfully fragrant. Tom Noble of Armstrong Valley Farm has been harvesting his Padrons for a couple of weeks but sold out quickly on Saturday in Santa Rosa. He expects to have more this weekend. Both farms have plenty of sweet Gypsy peppers.
The Sebastopol Berry Farm is now harvesting nearly all of its berries, including delicate orange raspberries and voluptuous purple raspberries. Golden raspberries should appear soon. This farm also has some of the most beautiful hydrangeas of the year.
There were plenty of Nancy Skall’s legendary strawberries on Sunday but by mid-morning all of her delicious asparagus was gone, scooped up by a single shopper. She has plenty of garlic, including tiny bulbs planted in the spring.
As you would expect, there’s a bounty of zucchini and other summer squash, some not much bigger than a finger, others almost the size of a forearm. Nearly every produce farmer has plenty.
Laguna Farms, Orchard Farms, The Patch, Armstrong Valley Farm and Oh! Tommy Boy/First Light Farm are the market’s heavy hitters when it comes to diversity. Together, these farms have everything from pea shoots; sunflower shoots; fresh herbs (including cilantro and dill) and several varieties of salad greens and lettuces to collard greens; kales; chards; golden, red and Chioggia beets; rutabaga; potatoes, onions; slicing cucumbers; pickling cucumbers; green beans; broccoli; cauliflower; carrots; garlic and that ubiquitous zucchini. Orchard Farms also has strawberries and Armstrong Valley Farm has eggs.
Hector Alvarez currently has all of his honey products, along with eggs, dried chiles and nopales cactus paddles, delicious in quesadillas and tacos.
Earthworker Farm specializes in microgreens, arugula, salad mix and delicate edible flowers.
Twin Hill Farms is in the middle of its stone fruit harvest and The Peach Farm currently has a lot of apricots, along with peaches and zucchini.
The Sebastopol market is an excellent source for meat, fish and cheese. Weirauch Farm was offering its first sheep milk cheese, along with its popular cow milk cheeses and Javier Salmon of Bodega Goat Cheese always does a brisk business with is delicious goat cheeses.
Paul Thornton has returned to the market with his succulent smoked wild king salmon and Dave Legros currently has plenty of local wild king salmon, along with flounder, ahi, scallops baby shrimp and more. Pepper Road Farm of Petaluma is now offering specialty cuts–leg-thighs, breasts, necks, etc.– as well as whole meat-breed chicken and eggs. Owen Family Farm has fresh spring lamb, a wide selection of lamb sausages, bacon and salami, along with plenty of beef and pork.
Franco’s One World Sausages offers a constantly evolving selection of handcrafted sausages, some of the finest you’ll ever taste.
Salmon Creek Ranch currently has plenty of pastured duck, duck eggs and grass-fed beef.
When it comes to baked goods, there’s plenty, too, including hearth breads from Full Circle Baking Company; sweet and savory pastries and delicious macarons from Dominique’s Sweets; scones, tarts and croissants from Patisseries Angelica and gluten-free treats from the Cosmic Cookie Jar.
Terra Savia has its excellent olive oils here, along with wildflower honey, olive oil salve, olive oil soap, Nori sea salt, small olive trees and Terra Savia Pinot Noir and Merlot.
Gardeners have plenty to entice them at this market, including colorful calla lilies and day lilies, gorgeous irises, perennials, herbs and tropical plants from Chris Baker’s Exoticals.
Several craft vendors round out the market and fans of Princess Aisha are pleased that she is back with her shea butter, handmade soaps and African crafts and musical instruments.
The Sebastopol farmers is not just a destination for conscientiously grown and raised local foods. Many shoppers come specifically to enjoy a meal from Mateo’s Yucatan Tamales, Rosso’s Pizzeria or Lata’s Indian Cuisine while watching the entertainment, which on Sunday was belly dancing.
There’s another aspect to this market, as well, perhaps best summed up by a comment from a teenage cook-in-training a few days ago.
“I hate the Sebastopol farmers market,” the young man said with a sly smile.
When I asks him why, he responds with a single word.
I laugh out loud.
There is a definite counter-culture dimension to this market, expressed in some of the craft booths, political information tables and petting areas of rescued animals. On Sunday, there were rabbits, chickens, ducks and horses from Fairy Tale Animal Rescue. Sometimes a goat rescue group attends, with several young goats and a big sign proclaiming “Goats are not dinner.” A few steps away, Owen Family Farm sells goat meat and goat skins.
Everyone gets along perfectly and in the center of the square, alongside the burbling fountain filled with giggling toddlers, girls in long tie-dye skirts spread their arms, look skyward and twirl to the music coming from the stage.
“Only in west county,” some people murmur while others smile, appreciating the unique charm of this market and this place.
The Sebastopol Certified Farmers Market, founded in 1994 and currently managed by Paula Downing, takes place in the town plaza at McKinley and Petaluma Avenues, on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.