Every farmers market has its own atmosphere and Sebastopol’s is a mirror of both the town itself and the greater west county at large. Where else can you watch a colorfully-clad young woman with dreadlocks twirling a hula hoop while on stage a middle-aged woman in denim croons a Patsy Cline song, kids splash in the fountain and aromas of tamales mingle with the sweet spring air?
Produce selections are equally diverse and appealing.
This is the only market where I’ve seen goose eggs; Nan Koehler of Rainbow’s End Farm offers them nestled in a basket between cartons of organic chicken eggs and little bags of dried persimmons. Shortly after the market opened, there were only three left, though there were plenty of duck eggs across from Nan’s stall, at Triple T Farms.
Rainbow’s End spring selection also include jams, chutneys, fruit spreads, herb spreads, olives, fresh flowers and some interesting–and delicious– agua frescas full of herbs that make perfect spring tonics.
Triple T currently has a lot of plant starts, loose-leaf spinach, other early spring greens, chicken eggs, butternut squash and bunches of freshly picked herbs (sage, chives, rosemary, thyme, oregano and, though not actually an herb, stinging nettles) for $1 each.
A newcomer to the market, Smiling Sun Farms, has chicken eggs, fresh thyme and huge beautiful calla lillies. You can also sign up for their CSA, which begins in a few weeks.
When it comes to produce, the mainstays of spring are Laguna Farms, Nancy Skall’s Middleton Farm, Armstrong Valley Farm and Orchard Farm. By mainstays, I mean those farmers with the biggest selection of fresh produce, which is at a premium right now, given heavy March rains. Laguna has all manner of greens, from lettuce to kale, three kinds of beets (golden, red and oblong red), cabbage, leeks, tiny fennel bulbs, broccoli and green garlic, along with chicken eggs. Middleton has Italian parsley, broccoli, celery root, sprouting broccoli, French sorrel, Japanese tree peonies, camellias, asparagus, shallots, leeks and a selection of delicious preserves, including strawberry, raspberry, white peach-raspberry and pears in lavender honey. Nancy Skall also has extraordinary chicken eggs, though she doesn’t usually display them. You need to ask.
Armstrong Valley Farm has a nice selection of local citrus, including white grapefruit, oranges, miniolas, Meyer lemons and Eureka lemons, which are not common at farmers markets. The farm is also harvesting spring garlic, golden beets, red beets, chard, kale and Asian salad mix. Carrots will be ready soon. Orchard Farm has asparagus, red leaf salad mix, broccolini, loose leaf chard, fennel and leeks. Last week, they were the only vendor with carrots.
Hector Alvarez, the largest beekeeper in Sonoma County, is a familiar presence at this market, with his wonderful array of honeys, handmade candles, dried chilies and garlic.
Don’t overlook farmers with fewer offerings as you will miss delicious little treasures. The diminutive C & M Farm has green garlic, freshly-picked mint, lavender, kale, flowers and dried chilies still on the stem. Bloomfield Honey has a great selection of honeys and some handmade candles.
All farmers markets are becoming excellent sources for local cheese, meat and seafood as well as produce. In Sebastopol, you’ll find Bodega Goat Cheese, including their delicious Crema, often made the day before the market. Owen Family Farm has open-pastured veal, beef, lamb (including lamb tongue!) and goat and also sells beautiful sheep skins and sausages. Interestingly, if you want bones you need to arrive early at this market. Bones are the first thing to go. Brock Fulmer of Black Sheep Farm is back at the market, with his grass-fed Romagnola beef (including back ribs, short ribs, marrow bones, soup shanks, ground beef, and several premium cuts) and pork, including smoked Boston butt and boneless leg roast.
When it comes to seafood, some of the best you’ll find anywhere is here. Dave Legros works with Jimmy Galle, founder of Gulfish, who buys directly from small fishermen and gets the seafood here within a day of harvest. The Gulf flounder and colossal shrimp are extraordinary. Dave also has Oregon baby shrimp, Dungeness crab meat, ahi tuna and wild King salmon. He also smokes his own fish (species vary), makes crab cakes and salmon cakes and occasionally has other specialties, such as the Gulf crawfish he offered last week. Dave is a fisherman, too, and told me last week that he may launch a salmon CSA after the season opens in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned; I’ll share information as soon as it’s available.
Paul Thornton is back with his delicious smoked wild salmon.
The Sebastopol market has excellent handmade granola (cardamom apricot; apple cinnamon; blueberry ginger; original and a huge array of additions, sold separately), walnuts, truly raw almonds (unpasteurized), almond meal, almond flour and dried fruit.
There are plenty of vendors with plant starts, including hard-to-find medicinal herbs from Napa Valley Botanicals. There are iris vendors, a vendor with orchids and other exotic plants and a vendor who makes redwood planters and other items for your garden. Several seamstresses sell their hand-made clothing.
Information and service booths include intuitive readings (free, donations welcome), a cooking demo, a masseuse, master gardeners and, last week, the Song Bird Hospital, which was so busy we barely had a chance to ask questions. We hope they’ll return. A woman was selling her handmade candles and water-color cards, Hanging Out had a gorgeous display of everything you need to set up clothes lines inside and outside and Taylor Maid Coffee offered both brewed beverages and coffees and teas to take home.
If you linger after shopping, there is plenty to enjoy, from delicate scones and other pastries from Patisserie Angelica and hearty Yucatan-inspired breakfasts cooked on the spot by Mateo Granados to pizza from Rosso, fabulous Indian food from Lata (who sells the best chai I’ve tasted) and more.
The Sebastopol Farmers Market takes place on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the town plaza, located at the corner of McKinley and Petaluma Avenues, across from Box Office Video.