Sonoma and Occidental Farmers' Markets

Most people have vacations and go camping, visit new cities, beaches. I go to farmers' market. At least that's what I did on Friday.

First I went to the farmers' market in Sonoma, right off the tree lined square. The market is in a gravel paved parking lot, one row of farmers and vendors. It's an old town market without polish. Character outweighs the dust however.

There was a young man selling fish from the tailgate of his Chevy truck. He was unimpressed that a guy had written a book called Bottomfeeder that I mentioned he might be interested in. (I know. I couldn't help it.)

I squeezed and smelled succulents per a hand lettered sign that were potted in everything but the kitchen sink. Each one, one of a kind. Then in conversation with a woman selling worm tea, she explained the way I make worm tea doesn't leach out the worm urine, which her process does. Urine? Worms have urine? I'm still thinking about that.

I moved on and caused a stir buying four pounds of jalapenos. And had I been going home I would have bought a box of the prettiest Petaluma strawberries I've seen all year, but I resisted. I visited with a young woman selling garden roses from her uncle's ranch near Bennett Valley. Over fragrant buckets of hand gathered bouquets we shared flower names back and forth, english phlox, butterfly bush. Echinacea, godetia.

There was a mandatory baker with bread and scones. Women making drip coffee by the cup. There was one farm truck, from Fresno I think, that I see at every market. The woman selling is always smiling. I was right at home.

Traveling back roads I was astonished at the wine country's far reaching monoculture; from Napa, Sonoma, to Petaluma, Penngrove. There were endless rolling hills of vineyards. A mass patchwork quilt of land in emerald green and golden that would be called brown anywhere but California. "This used to be empty fields," I kept saying.

Further west the vineyards disappeared and I drove through redwoods to Occidental and a late afternoon market. This was the foodshed of my great grandparents and it's still primarily open land, people living far apart, small farmers, a smaller town.

This was a local market where everyone knew each others name. Where no one sold a lot but what they sold was valuable because of it. I bought rainbow carrots from young men with dreadlocks, blackberries picked that morning. I drank juice poured from a mason jar made with nettles, plums and rose geranium. And I went back for seconds.

A young woman displayed a variety of red potatoes I'd never heard of. There were white agrostema and buckets of sunflowers that told stories. There was a man with shiny skin selling baskets in woven colors of which I thought I should bring one of each home. And a lavender lemonade stand run by three giggling girls that seemed to spill more than they sold.

The trash cans were just that, trash cans. No fancy recycling with monitors testing on what could and could not be recycled. Only a dented lid to be lifted, trash deposited, lid replaced. Recycling either happened because you took responsibility, or it didn't.

This was a town where the hydrangeas grew blue, summer squash grew quickly and time left alone. I sat at a picnic table, petted a dog, admired a baby, laughed with a local. I ate blackberries and listened to the music.

Vacations should always be this good, I thought.


Unknown said...

Wow - the Farmer's Market is one of my favorite places to go! I try to go to our local Market once a week!

Green Bean said...

Sounds wonderful. I thought of you when I visited the St Helena farmers market. I remember you said you'd been there. What a great way to vacation, isn't it? Discover new foods, connect with people living far different lives. I love checking out different farmers' markets.

I visit the Napa Valley often and, while I love the open space and soaring hawk filled skies, it is one big giant monoculture. I'm heartened by Long Meadow Ranch which set up organic vegetable gardens in the midst of Rutherford, wine country. My dad and I dream of buying land up there, along Highway 29, and opening an organic berry stand/pumpkin patch.

Melissa said...

that does sound wonderful! I bet you didn't want to leave! Maybe I'll have to accidentally find myself in that neighborhood one of these days...

Anonymous said...

I know all of those vendors of which you visited here in Sonoma. I see them almost weekly. But I did miss this last Friday.

Aren't those strawberries great? I bought a ton last year, this year we've been partial to the strawberry patch in town here.

Oh and I wanted to let you know that if you are looking for a pretty way to decorate the tops of your strawberry jam jars, I've designed some labels which I have on my blog today.

Sarah said...

Thank you for reminding me how blessed I am to live in Sonoma County!

Donna said...

What a lovely way to spend a day! Wish I lived closer and we could hang out and visit a couple more markets!

My husband teases me, but he knows when we travel I can resist anything but a good roadside stand or farmers market.

Kale for Sale said...

bobbi - They're as good as libraries, don't you think?

green bean - I had figs from a 100 year old tree at the St. Helena market. And when I went back for more they were sold out. Every market is its own person, each one completely different even if the food is the same as the town twenty minutes to the north.

It seems like it wasn't long ago that Napa primarily consisted of fruit stands along the road and wineries were the exception. In any event, it is beautiful over there and I like your dream.

melissa - Go on purpose. It's worth it.

kendra - I absolutely thought of you at the Sonoma market. But then you must not need to go as much considering your big garden. I'd probably want to go anyway to see the people and make sure I wasn't missing anything.

I snuck a peek at your labels from work today and they're beautiful. How'd you know that I've been stacking jars in the pantry confident that I would simply remember what's in them? Your labels will be put to good use although I liked your masking tape and sharpie marker method too.

sarah - Yes, totally blessed you are. I'm fourth generation Sonoma County and I've always loved it. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.

donna - I would hang out at a farmers' market with you in a hot July minute. And I have to check out the markets everywhere we go too. They tell so much about a place and people are always nice, often ready to share a story about their food. Independent bookstores are irresistable to me too.

Carolyn said...

Just stopped by for a visit. I wanted to say Hi and nice Blog!


Kale for Sale said...

Carolyn - Thank you very much. I hope you come back.