The Magical World of Santa Barbara's Farmer's Market
Some Facts About the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market
- The Santa Barbara Farmer's Market started in 1983.
- At least 25 farms are represented every week.
- The farmer's market not only has fruits and vegetables but cheeses, nut spreads, milk, organic meats, nuts, seeds, sprouts, cooking oil, honey, herbs, flowers, and breads.
- The Tuesday Farmer's Market is on State Street and has a lot of street performers.
- The farmer's market was started to connect the local farmers to the community. And it has worked. Many farmers have developed great relationships with their customers and have educated them on organic produce.
- More pictures of the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market can be seen at www.facebook/SBFarmersMarket.com
It's Another Nice Day in Santa Barbara
Before we enter Saturday's farmer's market on Cota and Santa Barbara Street, we have some breakfast. We want to have plenty of energy before going to the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market. We stop at Crushcakes on Anacapa and get a vegetable egg scramble with gluten-free toast and a nice tall glass of freshly squeezed organge juice. We relax on the patio and look up at the blue Santa Barbara sky with the tall swaying palm trees and say in unison, "It's another nice day in Santa Barbara."
Because it truly is. It always seems nice in Santa Barbara. There's no better place to live than Santa Barbara. The weather is temperate and the sun always shines. It never gets too cold or too hot--it is always just right. There's always a laid back vibe here with people walking their dogs, riding their bikes, skateboarding or wearing their favorite Sanuks or Teva sandals as they take a casual stroll. What better place to have a farmer's market than in Santa Barbara. You know it will never be rained out or closed due to inclement weather. The opening bell will always ring in the customers.
Leave Your Cockatoo at Home
People enter the Santa Barbara Market like they are entering Disneyland. They know they will be thrilled by all the sounds and sights that they see. Customers look at the produce like kids look at the Disney characters--in complete awe. All their senses are enlivened. They smell the fresh breads, the organic strawberries, the Meyer lemons, and the freshly cut Gerber daisies and artichokes in bloom. There is so much diversity that you can't help but think about the Disney song, "It's a Small World After All." There are locals of course but there are people from Germany and Sweden and France and parts unknown.
We see people with Trader Joe bags but we also see others carrying wicker baskets, pulling wagons, pushing handcarts, shopping carts and strollers. We see people dressed in hippie clothes with tie-die shirts and people with no shirts and Ugg boots while others dress preppy with Docksiders. We see men with long hair, short hair and no hair. We see women who are slender and not so slender. We see women in skin-tight Lululemon pants and men in bicycle shorts and older men in bermuda shorts and knee-high socks.
But we don't see any animals. There's a big yellow sign as you walk in--no dogs, cats or birds allowed. It's a public health law. So I leave my cockatoo at home.
The Santa Barbara Farmer's Market
The Fruits and Vegetables Steal the Show
The variety of people and their energy are truly amazing. There is so much food intelligence around that you not only could hear it but you could taste it. People sharing recipes or conjuring up creative ways of preparing a meal. I see people who are local chefs shopping for the evening dinner menu. While I see vegans and vegetarians shopping with a satisfied grin.
But the fruits and vegetables and other foods steal the show. The fruits and vegetables are big and beautiful and they seem to have an energy unto itself. They almost jump out at you as you stroll past each stall. They are laid out artistically, so they catch your eye and make you salivate. People wanting to savor the food display often take pictures, and many just stand and stare at the stack of Hass avocados or the pyramid of canteloupes. The beautiful colors of greens and yellows and reds and purples. The different raisins displayed in jars, rows of honey from light to dark. You can sample the blue cheese or the cheddars. You can take a sip of the organic milk squeezed from the Jersey cows. You can have a little nibble of French bread. Go ahead and taste a roasted pecan and buy a bag full of fresh jalapeno pistachios. Look at the fresh herb display and smell the mint and lavender. Have a spoonful of some fresh organic almond butter or perhaps buy a bottle of cold pressed olive oil.
It's all here, right in front of you, ready to sample, ready to buy.
Our Favorite Vendors
I just love the names of the different food vendors like--the Tutti-Fruiti Farm, the Flying Disc Ranch, and Harry's Berries. They are all local, organic and certified.
After going to the farmer's market for a couple of years, you have your favorite vendors. You start recognizing friendly faces and not so friendly faces. You may not know them by name but you can recognize them by their smile and personality.
There's the olive oil man. He always has his skinny, shiny organic olive bottles lined up like bowling pins. Some bottles are infused with garlic or rosemary or lavender. We approach him and ask how he's doing. We say we are back for our weekly olive oil fix. It is rich and tasty, perfect on some butter lettuce and tomatoes. It's all you need for a delicious salad, unless you want a little red wine vinegar added.
There's the egg man. We love the brown organic eggs but the egg man never says hello. He is often curt with us and just gets us a carton and takes our money. No friendly chatter. No worries.
There's the sprout lady. She will tell you what the best sprouts to buy during each season and how to store it and what foods to use it with. She has a plethora of knowledge and she lets you know it.
Then there's the nice Mexican strawberry lady. She loves her strawberries and will often treat you like a friend. For about three full pints of strawberries you might pay eight dollars. We use some and the rest we will wash and cut up and freeze.
And Then There's the Modern Day Troubadours
Near the entrance is the young, female organ player who plays an assortment of love songs while sitting on the sidewalk with her legs splayed out like a frog. We wonder if she's homeless like some of the other musicians.
There's the Native-American guy who plays the mandolin in his bare feet with the intensity of a Yo-Yo Ma.
There's the four Californian hippie girls who play a funky style of pop, folk and blue grass. Check out the redhead who plays a mean tambourine!
There's the old Mexican man who plays emotional songs on his guitar with the finesse of a Mariachi player.
There's the young teen boy who sings "Drops of Jupiter" by Train while playing his guitar as if he were experienced way beyond his years.
There's the seasoned gray-beard who's been around the block a few times whispering soft-sounding Beatles and Dylan songs.
They have their hats and open guitar cases and jars beside them so you can throw a dollar or two in. They deserve it. They help to set the mood for a beautiful day of shopping at the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market.
I Think We're Done
How do you know that you are done shopping at the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market?
- When your bags start to get heavy.
- When you feel tired, sweaty or simply tired of walking or being on your feet.
- When you run out of cash (most of the vendors only take cash).
- When you find yourself going up and down the same aisles, start to get a little dizzy and bouncing off other customers. It's then time to head home.
After all these criteria are met, I turn to my girlfirend and say, "I think we're done, babe. Let's head home and take a nap."
What's your experience with farmer's markets? Do they have the same effect on you as they do on me? You're comments are welcome.