The Cotati Farmers Market opened for its 2012 season last Thursday afternoon, with both familiar vendors and vendors unique to this market.

Saeturn Family Farm, located near Sonoma State University, sells its delicious strawberries and blackberries here and only here.

A diverse selection of fresh produce is offered by two familiar farms, French Garden Farm of Sebastopol and Ortiz Farm of Santa. French Garden Farm has carrots, fennel, beets, kale, chard, salad mix, herbs, a big selection of lettuces, flowers and a few surprises each week, as more early summer crops mature. The same is true with Ortiz Farms, which is located in a somewhat warmer inland area. Although it still too early for chiles, this is the farm to watch when you’re waiting for poblanos. For now, they have onions, scallions, Italian parsley, cilantro, radishes, chard, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, large heads of lettuce, including Romaine that is perfect for Caesar Salad, pretty flowers, and more.

Neufeld Farm, which like Ortiz and French Garden attends a number of local markets, has a big selection of dried fruit, nuts and fresh stone fruit. Bloomfield Bees has honey, honey comb and other honey products.

Felton Acres, a south Sebastopol farm that is fairly new to the market scene, attends this market with eggs, chicken, lamb and pork, all pastured raised. Some of the eggs are from hens that are fed no soy and there is also soy-free chicken, both of which are a bit pricier than the other eggs and chicken, as chicken feed, including organic feed, without soy is expensive.

Full Circle Baking attends with its excellent selection of hearth breads made in Penngrove and Skyview Nursery has a big selection of flower, herb and vegetable starts for your garden.

There’s a lot of eat on the spot at the Cotati market. The Strudel Guy, who also sells his sweet and savory strudels at the Wednesday Night Market in Santa Rosa, attends, as does The BBQ Spot. Russotti’s  Italian Hot Dogs has added chocolate-dipped bananas to its menu, which also includes hot dogs, hot links, Polish sausages and lemonade.

Nan’s Gourmet Foods, based in Vallejo, sells a large selection of prepared sauces, marinades and condiments here, along with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and pastas. You’ll find gluten-free baked cooks at two stalls, the Cosmic Cookie Jar and Mama Baretta, which specializes in Italian-style breads and cookies. Killer Baking Co. specializes in brownies and also has blondies and ice cream.

Ana’s –CQ– Catering, which offers a selection of Mexican foods, joins the market next week and will attend for the rest of the season.

Fish On! Chips, popular on the food truck scene, sells here; currently they have just beer-battered fish served on chips made from fresh potatoes but may add chowder, perhaps soon.

There are also about six craft vendors.

As the market opens, prepared foods and crafters outnumber the purveyors of produce, eggs and meats, as is the case with many afternoon and evening markets. These vendors serve two important purposes. First, they allow a market to thrive regardless of how the seasons unfold. Second, they encourage and enhance lingering at a market. As markets become the equivalent of the town square, the commons where we mingle in public with our friends and neighbors, the cooks, chefs, crafters and artists help create and reinforce community.

The Cotati Farmers Market, founded in 2001 and currently 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.

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