On a recent Wednesday morning, my daughter and I decided to try out the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market. We’re both hitting notable birthdays this year, and one thing we’ve noticed about ourselves as we’ve gotten older is our aversion to crowds. So we were both delighted to find that the Wednesday morning version had all the things we love about a farmers market -- local produce, quality meats, delicious fresh-cooked food and interesting goods -- without the one thing we don’t: swarms of people. Here are some of the cool stands we discovered as we leisurely strolled through the market located in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center of the Arts, having all the time to have long conversations with the friendly merchants. Local Spicery – Owner Carol Torresan (her business card names her as the “#1 Spice Cadet”) explained that their spices were ground in a mill in Novato and those that weren’t sold in a couple of months were donated to local food kitchens. Amazing smells came from the $8 plastic packages, which held a half cup, and the $5 glass canisters, which held a scant quarter cup. We picked up Zatar, a Mediterranean spice we planned on sprinkling over tomatoes, Garden Gems, which we can attest tastes great on popcorn, Guajillo Chili Powder and Saigon Cinnamon. (www.freshlocalspices.com)
Willow Design – We loved the re-use philosophy that thrived at this booth, where jewelry designer Ann Marie made all of her jewelry from old silverware. She pounded spoons into flat disks for bracelets, used the thin middle of the silverware for earrings, and turned the decorative ends into barrettes. Forks she pounded into cute elephant pendants. “I try not to waste any little bits,” she said. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Live A Lot Food – We were astonished that these crunchy, flavorful crackers were raw, vegan, gluten free and dairy free. And still crunchy, which is my daughter’s weakness. The booth is new to the Santa Rosa Farmers Market and on the day we visited, owner Sara Warne was being helped out by her very sweet son. We bought a box of orange sesame crackers, which lasted all of 15 minutes once they got home. (Live A Lot Food Facebook page)
The Dream Catcher Ranch – Both my daughter and I are focused on a low-fat protein diet – chicken and turkey – so when owner Richard Nicholes opened his cooler to show us an incredible display of pork and beef, we almost cried. “We raise our food in our backyard,” he said. “When I call, the pigs come. They don’t run away from me.” Based on the lovely marbling of the bacon, those are some seriously happy pigs. When he discussed the option to sign up for a CSA box of meat, tears were shed. (www.thedreamcatcherranch.com)
Farm Sinclair – We got an incredible education at this produce stand: You harvest loquats by climbing up into the tree and cutting off the clusters, not trying to pick individual fruits. A Haas avocado is named after Mr. Haas. A Bacon avocado is named after – I’m not kidding – Mr. Bacon. We walked away from this stand with this new knowledge, as well as a lovely head of butter lettuce and two bacon avocados. (lee.higbee@FarmSinclair.com)
Parsons' Homegrown – We marveled at the beauty of Kelley Parsons’ early season tomatoes as we walked up to her stand. When I told her how hard they were to find this time of year, she asked me if I ever shopped at Oliver’s Markets, a local grocery chain. When I told her I did and only bought the ones labeled “Hydroponic,” she said, “Oh, those are mine.” I realized her delicious tomatoes were already sitting on my counter. Kelley starts them as seeds in September, has full-grown plants by January that she keeps in a greenhouse on a bed with electric heat, and then has ripe tomatoes in May instead of July. Kelley and her husband, Tom Parsons, are also vineyard owners and grow for Siduri Wines. We’re looking forward to getting to know them better. (Parsons' Homegrown Facebook page)
To see more pictures of our day, please visit our Facebook album.
Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market
Wednesdays, 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Location: Wells Fargo Center for the Arts 50 Mark West Springs Road Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Click herefor a list of Wednesday's vendors.