One of the biggest changes in our farmers markets, especially the larger ones, is that they are now among the best places to shop for healthy proteins and fats. Everything from locally-produced olive oil, local organic butter and pastured eggs to dried beans, tree nuts, seafood, pastured poultry, grass-fed lamb, beef and bison and local pork is available. The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market offers a huge diversity of these products, especially on Saturdays, when the market is now open an hour later than the Wednesday market, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market closes at noon on Wednesdays.

Amidst late spring and early summer produce–the first zucchini, the last asparagus, the end of the fresh fava crop and the first blueberries, from Orland, where the season is ahead of ours–you’ll find several types of dried beans, though the vendor with the most varieties, Tierra Vegetables, attended for the final time this season last week. Bernier Farms, located in Geyserville, has beautiful black and white beans, Fagioli Badd, and speckled brown beans, Petaluma Gold Rush, grown in Petaluma for over 150 years.

Dried beans from Bernier Farms

Nut’N’Other Farms has true raw unpasteurized almonds, almond meal, almond flour, walnuts and eggs. Angelina “Angie” McKinsey, whom you’ll always see smiling at her stall, grew up in Sonoma County as did her husband John; her parents and her grandparents were farmers here. In addition to the products she offers on alternating weeks at the market, she also raises chicken and, in season, turkey. Visit the web site to learn more about these products and how to get them and to see her market schedule.

The olive oil vendor at this market is The Olive Press, located Sonoma; they offer a huge range of olive oils. If you’re looking for Davero, which I consider among the finest olive oils produced in the United States, they stopped attending farmers markets when they opened their tasting room located at 766 Westside Rd. in Healdsburg; it is worth the drive. Two vendors have butter, McClelland’s Dairy and Spring Hill Cheese Co.,

Rich, delicious butter, made with Jersey milk, from Spring Hill Farm

both located in Two Rock Valley west of Petaluma. Cheese vendors include Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese, Spring Hill Cheese Co., Bellwether Farms and the brand new Spring Mountain Cheese Company, which is offered at the same booth as Bellwether. The cheeses, made with Jersey milk, include an absolutely delicious mozzarella and the semi-hard Mexican-style Chihuahua, made with raw milk, which has a pleasingly nutty flavor. Bellwether yogurt is also available at the booth; I particularly love Bellwether plain sheep milk yogurt.

The market's newest cheeses, from Sonoma Mountain Cheese Company

There are currently so many vendors with chicken eggs that there’s no need to name them. All are excellent, with subtle variations in flavor and size. I’ve tried them all and have a favorite, though it may not be your favorite; I recommend trying various vendors and if you find one that stands out, stick with it.

Salmon Creek Ranch has duck eggs that have become so popular that you need to get to the market early to snag a carton. The farm also has fresh whole duck and duck breast, leg-thighs, liver, gizzards, heart, feet, necks, feet and fat but, again, if there is something specific you want, arrive early or risk missing out. At about 10 a.m. last Saturday, eggs, gizzards, heart and feet were already sold out. Duck eggs are becoming increasingly popular as information about their remarkable nutritional profile spreads. Duck eggs are higher in healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals than chicken eggs and some individuals who are allergic to chicken eggs can eat duck eggs. It is important to note that Salmon Creek Ranch does not attend every market; they do, however, post their schedule at their web site.

Two seafood vendors attend the market. One, Carson’s Catch, focuses primarily on wild salmon. Currently, they offer flash-frozen sockeye (red) salmon, smoked sockeye salmon and flash-frozen cod, all from Bristol Bay. They hope to add other salmon, including Pacific King, to their offerings soon.

Carson's Catch offers both flash-frozen and smoked sockeye salmon

Next Sunday, Carson Hunter heads to Bristol Bay to fish for almost two months, while his partner, Jen Larsen, takes care of the weekly farmers markets. Santa Rosa Seafood is the largest of all market vendors on Saturdays, with a huge display of both local seafood and seafood from other parts of the world. I love their tiny Manila clams, which are almost always available and are delicious paired with chorizo from a nearby stall. All of Franco Dunn‘s sausages, now made at Scopa Restaurant in Healdsburg, are outstanding though I think the chorizo is my favorite. You’ll see Franco most weeks at this market. Seafood from Santa Rosa Seafood is not always labeled with its source so if you are concerned about where it is from and, most importantly, whether it is wild or farmed, you’ll need to ask. Their web site is a good source for this information, too. If you’re not sure the best fish to choose from health and environmental vantage points, Seafood Watch is as good a resource as you’ll find anywhere.

These Manila clams are so tiny it is easy to mistake them as cockles

When it comes to meat, most vendors participate twice a month, some on the first and third Saturdays, others on the second and fourth. When it comes to fifth Saturdays, well, you just have to visit the market to see for yourself, as not even the vendors can say for sure exactly how these days (there are four this year) work. Those that rotate include John Ford Ranch (beef), Tara Firma Farms (eggs, chicken, turkey, pork, beef) and Williams Ranch (lamb, goat). Black Sheep Farm, with its delicious beef and pork, including transcendent bacon, attends weekly. You’ll find Dream Catcher Ranch (goat, lamb, pork, beef, bison) at the market on Wednesdays.

The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market operates year round, rain or shine, on both Wednesdays and Saturday. The Wednesday market is open from 8:30 a.m. to noon; the Saturday market is open from 8:30 until 1 p.m. The markets are located in the east parking lot of the Veterans Building, located at the corner of Brookwood and Maple Avenues.

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