As the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market settles into its second harvest season in its new location at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, it has hit its stride as the country’s central farmers market.
During its 16-month tenure at the center, it has moved several times to accommodate contracts in effect before the market became a tenant. Now it seems to have a permanent location, on the west side of the main building, adjacent to Highway 101, with plenty of covered parking.
You won’t find a greater abundance or diversity of produce at any single location in the county. Vendors offer dozens of varieties of tomatoes, from tiny currant and sweet cherry tomatoes to huge meaty beefsteaks in a gorgeous range of colors, from pale yellow, gold, orange, green, red and purple to all manner of stripes.
It’s the peak of pepper season, too, and you’ll find plenty here, including sweet Jimmy Nardellos, Hatch, Shishito, Padrons, poblanos, serranos, jalapenos, cayenne and many more.
Foggy River Farm, Min-Hee Hill Farm, New Family Farm, Tusque Farm , The Patch, Singing Frogs Farm, Laguna Farm, Armstrong Valley Farm, First Light Farm, Bernier Farms and Beet Generation are among the producers with mounds of tomatoes and peppers.
Beet Generation is grilling peppers on the spot, to take home or to enjoy as you shop. They’ve also added a juicy booth adjacent to their produce stall, with made-to-order juices from the farm’s produce.
Ma & Pa’s Garden has great tomatoes, too, and gorgeous Cheddar cauliflower, which is delicious roasted.
It’s melon season and there are delicious yellow and red watermelons at the market, along with muskmelons of every kind and size. (Unlike supermarket melons, farmers market melons are picked ripe and should be enjoyed soon after purchase.)
You’ll find all manner of cucumbers, green onions, red onions, cabbage, potatoes, salad greens and lettuces, braising greens, stone fruit and berries, too. And, yes, there is a lot of zucchini. Winter squash is just beginning to appear and there are a few quince.
Farmers markets are, of course, a natural destination for seasonal produce. For the last several years, they have become excellent sources for seafood, eggs and poultry, meat, sausages and dairy products, too, and this market offers a profusion of these products.
New to the market is Karlonas Farms of Cayman Valley, with quail. The farm plans to offer pheasant and patridge, too. Oz Family Farm has rabbit, Williams Ranches has extraordinary lamb and Salmon Creek Ranch is a regular here, with duck, goat, beef and duck eggs. Black Sheep Ranch almost always has pork, along with lamb and beef at times. John Ford Ranch has both grass-fed and corn-finished beef. Owen Family Farm has lamb, beef, pork and goat and there’s great eggs and chicken from Pepper Ranch Poultry of Petaluma. Pepper Ranch Poultry has just added freshly made chicken stock to their selection of products; it is $12 a quart.
Franco Dunn’s One World Sausages are a popular favorite at this market and if you want fresh-caught wild Pacific King salmon from Dave Legro , you’ll find it here, along with a selection of other freshly-caught fish and shellfish.
There are several cheese vendors here and, finally, two vendors with local yogurt. Saint Benoit Creamery, located in Bodega, has its classic plain yogurt, along with some new naturally-flavored honey and fruit yogurts, yogurt cheese and fresh milk.
Bellwether Farms extraordinary sheep’s milk yogurt–along with their delicious cheeses–is available here, too.
Personally, I find the new tea vendor one of the most exciting things to happen in a long time. PurePuer’s stall features tastes of outstanding puer teas, along with a few others, like oolong. They sell aged puer at excellent prices, too. If you are not familiar with puer, stay tuned. I’ll be writing about it in detail soon.
Arts, crafts and foods to enjoy on the spot round out the market, adding to the pleasure of making a morning of your visit.
The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, founded in 1978 and currently managed by Jaime Smedes , 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 west side parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Spring Rd. For more information, visit thesantarosafarmersmarket.com.