Santa Cruz Farmers Market
Farmers Market Foods in Coastal California
In the extremely lucky town of Santa Cruz, California, there are several Farmers Markets throughout the week (Downtown, Felton, Live Oak, Scotts Valley and Westside just to name the affiliated.). These markets are certified by the County Agricultural Commissioner, which means farmers are allowed to market directly to you, the consumer! That's right, no middleman; These products are pulled from the ground or plucked from the trees and put directly into your hands!
As an added bonus (did you really need one?) the way of doing this cuts down on packaging, labeling and (you guessed it) cost! Mind you, this isn't just meant as an incentive for you; many farmers and their generations of families have been able to stay in business as a result off this arrangement.
Although each is grand in its own way (the Felton and Scotts Valley locations even have KID ZONES for your children to draw and have their faces painted) I will have to cover them all in separate lenses (or someone else who is local to the others can cover theirs.). I will be covering my experience with the (largest and original, created the fall after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) Downtown sector, as it is the one I look forward to and go to every Wednesday.
All Photos by Gina Blanchard, All Rights Reserved.
What is a farmers market?
Why choose the market over, well, the market!
Have you ever been to a farmers market at all?
Farmers from all over the area come together and sell in a flea-marketesque environment (though less seedy, IMO). Sometimes there are arts and crafts, but other than soap that isn't allowed at this one.
So why come to this fancy outdoor marketplace?
Well, how far do you want your food to travel before it gets inside of you?
Have you ever gone to the grocery store and noticed what is printed on the sides of the boxes?
Made in Chili.
Hecho En Mexico.
Product of Argentina
Product of YOUR hometown ?
You don't ever see that second option, do you?
So many of us spend time looking for that little Made in USA stamp, sticker, or tag, that we forget the most important part: What we're putting INSIDE ourselves!
That's the Farmers Market, and while it may not be someone you know who owns the farm, in our small community you're likely to know someone who knows those people.
Either way, you still get
exercise from walking
an opportunity to be social
healthy food (lush, bright, delicious food!)
seasonal experience (not all fruits grow in the winter - did you know?)
the knowledge that you're supporting local farmers
less energy waste (lack of travel/refrigeration/etc.)
likely cheaper prices than the local store
(seriously, at least check it out pound for pound)
Market Match- get $5 for FREE when spending $10 in food stamps
fresh, often organic foods,
and much, much more!!
Who wouldn't want that?
In the July/August 2013 edition of Women's Health it cites PLOSONE reporting that farmers market tomatoes have"55% more vitamin C and 139% more phenolic content!"
That means Farmers Market food can be BETTER FOR YOU.
So if you're going to eat your vegetables, make them worth your while!
Not ALL foods found at Farmers Markets is organic, believe it or not. Do yourself and your family a favor and know what you're purchasing and where it came from. After all, we are what we eat!
The only downside is I can now tell the difference in taste of things like eggs, fruit, vegetables, dairy and bread when I miss the market! Nothing tastes as good to me anymore unless it came straight out of a garden).
Don't Panic, it's Organic!
One magazine cites a journal reporting
tomatoes from the Farmers Market to have
"...55% more vitamin C and 139% more phenolic content."
than their inorganic counterparts!
Specific to This Farmers Market
Downtown Santa Cruz
In the hustle and the bustle of laughter and impromptu singing there is a scene unlike any other, where drummers sit in circles and old women and young children run around handing out flowers to one-another. There is singing and dancing and smiles galore. There are jokes and samples handed out with gentle pressure - I've yet to run into a pushy vendor at these places.
There is a scent (oh the scent! You never forget!) that is thick and delicious and you want to bite into it. It is the smoking of the catering truck, the stickiness of sun-warmed tree fruits and unabashedly vibrant Iris bunches at six-for-twenty from Thomas Farms.
There are farm-fresh eggs and milk so delicious you'll think you returned to a time when it was delivered to your doorstep - before mass production.
Cheese, warm bread, coffee, granola - it's a foodies veritable playground.
Soap, Kraut of all different flavors, and even an oyster bar with oysters that came from the pacific ocean less than a mile away.
Pickles, pasta, nuts, butters, fish, sauces, honey, dried goods, sprouts, sausages, artichokes, leeks, kale, pomegranate juice; there are so many options your only problem will be getting it home (don't worry, I'll put down some ideas for that too.).
There are people everywhere but seldom does one see an impatient eye cast here, for we are all quite peaceful in our ways.
You would be too if you were here.
In 2013, Livability named Santa Cruz Farmers Market One of the Top Ten in the Nation!
The Food Court
If you've been up and down the aisles of food chances are you've had a sample plate (or three!) shoved in your face for the taking. If not, you've certainly stumbled across a display by this time, and either you didn't get your fill in peach slices and cherries or you are just hankering for some good food after all that. These guys are bargaining for just that.
Come in and savor crepes from none other than Delicious Crepes. An entire chicken from Roli Rotiis $13, if you're feeling ambitious (it's gourmet rotisserie). In the corner, Back Porch has tacos at two for six if you're feeling thriftier.
It's splendidly overwhelming to the senses, steam and smoke pouring out of windows and open doors to fill the courtyard. The longest lines are that of The Truck Stop and I was half tempted to join them when I saw their signs for strawberries and sour cream, donuts with five spice and Kimchi ($6). Can you say Vietnamese Sandwich? Slow cooked ginger-lemongrass pork (or tofu, of course), seasonal pickles (the sign said cherry?!), shaved jalapeno, cucumber, cilantro, kewpie mayo, siracha on a grilled roll with their own farm lettuce and I had to get out of there.
Having just eaten before coming here (I'm nobody's fool), I settled for some Up and Atom Chai, granting them Plus points for the name. For $2.50, you get a cup of the tea (they sell it by the bag too) and a choice of hot or cold. Do cold just to hear him say "That's Chice. Chai and Ice. Chice." with a victorious chuckle and suddenly I love this man! To top it off, this spectacular drink is made with Almond Milk to make me feel better about myself.
Bike Valet *and* Veggie Valet
We've already established that it gets pretty busy around these types of places, bumping in and out of lettuce and heirlooms to get to that next cucumber and what-not.
Let's say you went and brought a bicycle down here and you're not sure how you're going to maneuver it around these tight places, but you know if you leave it laying in the street it's going to disappear. So what do you do?
That's right folks, the fine people of the farmers market also provide you with a place to lay your bike, and it's Free! Just leave it there (do your Karma a favor and leave them a tip) and come back and get it when you're done.
What if you brought your car and left it too far to walk with all the groceries, or you have to run somewhere really quickly to buy that last piece to tie your perfect dinner together?
Once again, these fine folks have all the answers. Just leave your collection of scrumptious goods there and pull up curbside to load up your trunk when you're ready. Once again, remember to tip as this is all done on a volunteer basis!
What will they think of next?
How to get your produce home
Farmers Market Haiku
A Haiku to represent my feelings about the Farmers Market:
More than just a sight,
a scent and an adventure
welcome to my home
Cherries and peaches
strawberries and blueberries
how you surround me
Eggs by the dozen
fresh milk in recycled jugs
ice cream cones from scratch
Bread made this morning,
Ground beef and bacon burgers,
bacon avocados too!
Five dollars a bunch
for sweet peas or williams,
a deal at six for twenty
business men in Gucci shoes
we are all the same
My Finicky Passenger
Followed Me Home
From the Market
He Wanted To Live
In The Strawberries
I Don't Blame Him
I Want To Live There Too.