I am a farmer’s market snob. I have been to farmers markets all over our state, some in other states and one in Canada. I know what makes a good farmers market. I started shopping almost exclusively at farmers markets for my produce about seven years ago.
I became sold on the concept of farmers markets because the produce was so much better. The produce appeared fresher and tasted better. It lasted much longer in my fridge. Berries would last as long as 10 days before molding whereas even berries bought at the local high end retail stores often molded within a day or two. It’s simple, getting food to the supermarkets normally involves multiple layers of buyers, middlemen, freight companies and distribution centers. Produce is picked early and ripens in the back of a semi-truck or warehouse.
A farmers market cuts out these layers and allows the farmer (or an employee) to bring the produce directly to a farmers market. However, a market is only as good as the market manager. There are laws that govern the markets. While there is some oversight, it really is up to the market manager to ensure the rules are being followed. A good market manager will do periodic on-site inspection of the farms to ensure the crops being sold are actually being grown at the farm.
For the past seven years, my market of choice has been the Sunday market at College of the Canyons. I know most of the vendors and they know me. It is normally the same folks manning the stands every weekend, so I have deep ties to this market. We have a second market at the mall on Thursdays, but rumors that there was a booth selling Direct TV told me all I cared to know.
This past Saturday, a third farmers market opened up in Old Town Newhall. This is also the third attempt by our city to put on a farmers market in Old Town Newhall. The past two were horrible, so I hoped they had learned from their mistakes.
The first good sign was that the market has a seasoned market manager in fellow SCV Foodie, Greta Dunlap. She lives in the city and has some serious street cred. Some of her past stints include running the farmers markets in Beverly Hills and South Pasadena. She has served on the Certified Farmers Market Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Agriculture. Having someone committed to putting on a good market is a great start.
I chatted it up with Greta. She knows the industry, and she knows who is good. She stressed over and over how she is trying to bring the best of the best to our city.
So I arrived at the market on opening day and was pleasantly surprised. Most of the vendors were tried and true produce vendors. Many of them were certified organic, a designation that is not easy to get. I only saw produce being sold that I know is in season and grown in our state (no one was selling mangoes or pineapples). The remaining vendors were prepared food vendors selling some great things and a knife sharpener.
Speaking to many of the vendors, there were some things I really, really liked. I came away very impressed. I can easily say that I will be a regular at this market. My loyalty to my Sunday market runs deep, however I cannot argue with quality.
Some of the highlights I saw at the market were:
- Blue Water Seafood – Purveyors of fresh seafood. The guys had incredible fish with knowledge to match. They had fresh fish from all over. They contract with fishermen and buyers in strategic markets. They had fresh farmed King Salmon from a certified organic fish farm in Canada, oysters and all sorts of fish. The stunner for me was the fresh wild caught Arctic Char from Iceland. It’s common in Canada and the far north. It is similar to salmon in taste and it also packs loads of natural omega 3’s. We baked it for dinner and it was fabulous.
- Ha’s Apple Farms (Tehachapi, CA) – Selling certified organic apples. A couple years back, some foodies did a blind taste test of fuji apples from supermarkets and farmers markets. Ha’s fuji apples were chosen as best fuji apple. They are amazing.
- Homeboy Industries – Bread vendors. Their story and mission is very neat and they bake some mean bread. We had some Italian rosemary bread that was superb. But I loved the corn jalapeno bread. I put simple butter on this with some honey from the market as well and it was incredible. They were sold out of their cinnamon rolls which are legendary.
- JJJ Bees – It’s their first farmers market but their honey was amazing. The guy is passionate about his business and his wildflower honey showed it. I put it on the Homeboy Corn/Jalapeno bread.
- Dave’s Korean BBQ – Sold prepared Korean foods. Not sure what all I tried but he was handing out samples like crazy. I loved it all and his kimchee was spicy and good. But he handed me a sample of vegetable broth that blew my mind. I quickly bought a half gallon.
- Shepherd Farm Eggs – I have been buying from this vendor at the COC market. His eggs are superb. The yolks are deep orange and thick. The eggs come from pasture chickens that live in his organic orange grove in Ventura County.
- East and West – They used to sell at the COC market. They sell bolanis, which is an Afghan food. Interesting and nutritious. They hand out free samples so you get to try it out.
- Ginger and Fox – Local home bakery run by fellow SCV foodie Alison Needham. I loved the chocolate chip cookies and only after eating them did I find out they were gluten free.
- Salsa Poblanos – Tamale and salsa vendor. I did not try the tamales but I tried several salsas and they all were amazing.
- Avila and Son’s – Stone fruit and dried fruit. They had white doughnut peaches that were incredible.
- Tenerelli Orchards – Though he was not at the market this past Sunday, he will be there this coming Saturday. Tenerelli is known to have some of the best stone fruit around. He sells at the COC market as well. Last season, I performed a blind taste test of all the yellow peaches in the farmers market. His peaches were chosen as best in the market.
- Giddy Up Ranch – These folks brought out ponies and small animals, a baby pig, goats and what not for petting. Several kids were getting pony rides and having a good time.
There were other vendors that I did not get enough time to chat with. These are:
- Robin’s Wood Fired BBQ
- Buenrostro Farms – Veggies, strawberries, greens.
- Suncoast – Beans and veggies.
- Bernard Ranches – Citrus, avacados and macadamia nuts.
- Pulp Story – Pressed Juices.
- Timoteo Acres – Yams, potatoes and onions.
- Yangs Produce – Asian veggies.
- Divine Décor and Mayeda Cut Flowers – Fresh Flowers.
- Gary’s Knife sharpening
- Aris Natural Food – Pita breads, greek yogurk and hummus.
- Bloom Foods – Vegan Moles.
The Old Town Farmers Market is held every Saturday, rain or shine at the Newhall Community Center located at 22421 Market Street from 8:30am until 12:30pm.
Photos courtesy our good friend R.E. Copyright 2015, exclusively for eatSCV, used with permission.