As days shorten and evenings turn cold, there’s a sense of dismay among those of us who eat seasonally: Summer fruit is over, we sigh.
But not to worry, not yet. Gravensteins may be gone and peaches, plums and nectarines are winding down, but there are plenty of melons, grapes, pears, and raspberries and likely will be for several weeks.
“We’ll have raspberries until the first hard frost,” Gloria Vigil of Sebastopol Berry Farm says, adding that such a freeze came last year about a week before Thanksgiving.
On Sunday at the Sebastopol Farmers Market, the farm’s stall had golden, orange and red raspberries, along with blackberries, Asian pears, colorful dahlias and corn.
The Vigil family has operated their farm since 1986, when they purchased what had been Green Valley Farm, which specialized in blueberries. They added several varieties of raspberries, Asian pears, apples and flowers, including hydrangeas, dahlias and roses.
They also have nopales and sometimes bring them, already cleaned, diced and packed in little bags, to one of the farmers markets they attend each week.
“We don’t have a lot,” Vigil cautions, “and so we can’t take them to every market.”
The berry season begins in May, with a spring crop of golden, orange, red and purple raspberries and continues through June, when black raspberries ripen. Blueberry season peaks in early July and then, after resting for a month or two, raspberries return for their fall season.
The farm also has blackberries, marionberries and ollalieberries throughout the growing season.
The fall crop of raspberries mirrors the spring crop, with equal abundance and flavor. The difference between the varieties is subtle but delightful if you pay attention. Golden raspberries are more delicate than the others, with a pristine clarity on the palate. Orange raspberries are similar, with a hint of something I call sweet spices–cardamom, perhaps–because I can’t find another way to describe it. Red raspberries have more of what we think of as raspberry flavor, with a voluptuous intensity; purple raspberries have even more of these qualities. Black raspberries have a dark, concentrated flavor and make great syrup.
The Vigils use no sprays or pesticides on their land and a portion of the 10-plus-acre farm has been certified organic. Fruit from the organic sections of the farm are labeled and cost a bit more.
The Sebastopol Berry Farm is a family endeavor. Sabina and Tarcicio Vigil, their six children–three boys, three girls–and nieces, nephews and others all help out. Alma and Gloria Vigil, two of the daughters, tend to be the public face of the farm, as they are the ones we see most often at farmers markets.
Alma Vigil also sells Mexican oil cloth and items that she makes from the cloth, from finely worked wallets and coin purses to bags, aprons, table cloths and more. She sells them at farmers markets and sometimes hosts barn sales at the farm.
The Sebastopol Berry Farm, established in 1940 and owned by the Vigil family since 1986, is located at 9201 Ross Station Rd. in Sebastopol. A farm stand is open from June through Labor Day. The farm attends the Healdsburg Farmers Market on Saturday, the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on Wednesday and Saturday and the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday, along with several other markets out of the county. During the peak of the season, you’ll also find them at the Windsor and Petaluma farmers markets, though they have now concluded their 2012 season at these markets. For special orders, call 694-2301. For more information, visit sebastopolberryfarm.blogspot.com.