The season of abundance, which arcs over summer and fall, is in full swing, with all sixteen of our farmers markets open, offering twenty-three market days each week. Markets take place everyday but Monday and on certain days–Wednesdays, for example–you have a choice of three or four markets.

If you’ve been wanting to shift your shopping habits from supermarket-based to farmers-market-based, now is the best time. With nearly everything we need to stock our pantries, larders and refrigerators available, it is easy to do almost all food shopping outside, under a beautiful blue sky in what has become our community commons. Farmers markets once augmented what we found at our local supermarket but now we increasingly flip the two, making outdoor markets our primary resources.

Farmers markets are, of course, the best source of the freshest fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Yet as markets have matured, they also have become excellent destinations for everything from eggs, yogurt, cheese, fish, shellfish, poultry and meat to olive oil, vinegar, condiments and spices. You can speak directly with the vendors, those who care for animals, who fish, who pickle and who pick and process the olives for that luscious oil.

Once you learn your way around farmers markets during the high season, it will be easy to shift to the slower seasons, when seasonal markets conclude and tomatoes are just a sweet memory. Markets take place rain or shine and my philosophy has always been if farmers show up, then so should I. If something is at the market, it is in season. You can’t find a closer connection to the ebb and flow of the seasons, to the land itself and its bounty, unless you start farming yourself.

Newcomers to farmers markets should keep a few things in mind. First, for the best selection, arrive early and, before you begin shopping, stash your car keys safely in a pocket or purse. Try to bring small bills so that farmers don’t run out of change early in the day. Bring your own bags and, if you want to linger over breakfast or lunch, bring a cooler and, if you plan to buy bouquets, a bucket of water. Stash your purchases and then linger as long as you like, enjoying how the market unfolds as the day progresses. Before long, you’ll understand its unique rhythms.

One last thing: Leave your supermarket attitude at home or at least in the car. A lot of shoppers feel anxious at supermarkets and this anxiety sometimes leads to rudeness. I’ve been pushed, snapped at, admonished and scolded by tense shoppers who seem not to understand that it is okay to relax, to smile and to chat with strangers who, if you let them, just might become friends.

2012 Sonoma County Farmers Markets

 Year Round Farmers Markets

The Oakmont Certified Farmers Market, founded in the mid 1990s by Hilda Swartz, takes place on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 6585 Oakmont Dr. in east Santa Rosa.

The Redwood Empire Farmers Market, founded in 2012, is currently managed by Rob Cary, who is president of the market’s board of directors. It takes place on Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to noon and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the east parking lot of the Veterans Building, 1351 Maple Ave., Santa Rosa. redwoodempirefarmersmarket.com

The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, founded in 1978 and managed by Paula Downing, takes place from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays year round in the southeast parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Spring Rd. thesantarosafarmersmarket.com

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.

The Sonoma Valley Farmers Market, founded in 1985 and managed by Hilda Swartz, takes place on Friday mornings from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Depot Park on First St. West, just north of the Sonoma town plaza. svcfm.org.

Seasonal Farmers Markets

The Bodega Bay Farmers Market, founded in 2011 and currently coordinated by Samantha Hanan  and Diana Bundy, takes place on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 27 to October 28. It is located at 2255 Highway One in Bodega Bay.

The Cloverdale Farmers market, founded in 2008 and managed by Loretta Baker, takes place on Fridays from 5:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. in downtown Cloverdale between First and and Second Streets from June 1 to August 31.

The Cotati Farmers Market, founded in 2001 and managed by Karen Baggiani, takes place on Thursday afternoons from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. from June 7 through September 20. It is located at La Plaza Park at West Sierra Ave. and Old Redwood Highway in downtown Cotati.

The Glen Ellen Community Farmers Market, founded in 2011 and managed by Kelly Smith, takes place on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. from May 13 through October 28. It is located in the north parking lot of Jack London Village (14301 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen.).

The Healdsburg Farmers Market, founded in 1978 and currently managed by Mary Kelley, takes place on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon one block west of the town plaza, at North and Vine Streets, from May 5 through November 24, and on Wednesday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the town plaza from June 6 to October 24.  healdsburgfarmeresmarket.org.

The Oakmont Certified Farmers Market, founded in the mid 1990s by Hilda Swartz, hosts a seasonal market on Tuesdays from 5 to 7:30 p.m. from May 16 to October 23 from 9 a.m. to noon at 6585 Oakmont Dr. in east Santa Rosa.

The Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market, founded in 2002 and managed by Kim Dow, takes place on Fridays from 4 p.m. until dusk from June 1 through October 26. It is located on Bohemian Highway between First and Third Sts. in downtown Occidental. occidentalfarmersmarket.com

The Petaluma Farmers Market, founded in 1987 and managed by Kelly Smith  and Alyx Cucci,  takes place on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Walnut Park, at Petaluma Blvd. South and D St., from May 19 to November 17 and on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 8 p.m. on Second St. between B and D Sts. from June 6 to August 29. petalumafarmersmarket.com

The Rohnert Park Farmers Market, founded in 2011 and managed by Laure Tatman, takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. June 15 to August 31 at 500 City Center Drive.

The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, founded in 1978 and managed by Paula Downing, hosts a seasonal market from July 12 through September 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the WIC office at 1450 Guerneville Rd.

The Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers Market, founded in 2011 and managed by Christopher Welch, takes place from 5:30 p.m. to dusk  from May 1 through October 30 in the Sonoma town plaza. vomcfm.com

The Wednesday Night Market was founded in 1990 and is currently managed by Andre Morrow  and Nina Ferrando . It takes place on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 8:30 p.m. from May 9 through August 29 on E St. between Third and Fifth Streets. wednesdaynightmarket.org

The Windsor Farmers Market, founded in 2001 and managed by Glenda Castelli, takes place on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. from April through December and on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. from June through August on Market St. in Old Downtown Windsor.