Ten Farmers Market Local Favorites You Must Try
In the Bay Area, if you see someone walking to their car with a bag full of pasta, marinara sauce, bread, cheese and vegetables, it’s virtually impossible to discern whether they’re coming from a grocery store or one of the dozens of farmers’ markets in the region — unless, perhaps, their bag is reusable.
Local farmers’ markets are increasingly becoming a one-stop shop for groceries, offering items from your basic apples and oranges to your not-so-basic, organic, pressed in-house apple and orange juice with hints of carrot and ginger.
The Bread and Butter of Farmers’ Markets
Every farmers market is composed of two types of products — agricultural, or “ag,” products and non-agricultural, or “non-ag,” products. Although farmers markets have existed since as early as the Industrial Age, jam-makers and bread-bakers haven’t always been able to sell alongside their farmer friends.
It was as recently as the 1980s that non-ag products were first introduced into the California Farmers’ Markets Association’s markets. Due to logistics surrounding permits, it took eight years to get a mere loaf of bread into the market, according to Kayla Hayden, a market manager for the association.
But this addition, plus others, is what has made all the difference in keeping farmers’ markets afloat.
“It’s really helped the farmers’ markets survive against grocery stores,” Hayden says. “Because now you can go to the farmers’ market, and you can get your fruits and vegetables but also your pasta and your sauces and your seasoning.”
Although grocery stores and farmers’ markets are beginning to sell comparable products, the farmers and small business owners of farmers’ markets will always be able to provide consumers with one commodity grocery stores simply cannot: the human story. Marianna Zavala, marketing and promotions specialist for the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association, believes it’s this human element that takes a non-ag vendor from good to great and keeps customers coming back.
“These days, you know, we have access to so much, whether it’s in the store or online, and so just having a good product isn’t enough,” Zavala says. “Having a true and honest and passionate story is really what makes all the difference.”
Tales and Tastes
According to Hayden and Zavala, these are a few of the vendors selling at local markets whose stories are worth hearing and whose goods are worth tasting, categorized by type of product. (Check out the Market Guide at the end of this article to view what markets each vendor attends.)
Origins Juicery, which has two brick-and-mortar locations in San Jose and Redwood City, uses all-natural ingredients and prepares its juices in house daily. “They’ve seen a lot of popularity out of downtown San Jose because they have the San Jose story,” Zavala says. “You know, they are the locals.” With clever names, such as Tea Quiero, a blend of green tea, apple and more, or Cochata, a concoction of coconut water and horchata, these drinks are hard to pass up, and that’s even before tasting them. Find it at San Jose Downtown Farmers Market.
Those interested in experimenting at the Ginger Lab need to get there quickly. “[The owner] just can’t keep it stocked enough,” Hayden says. Ginger Lab produces non-alcoholic beverages from four ingredients — ginger, water, lemon and sugar — that ease three ailments — nausea, upset stomach and inflammation. The annually offered brews are original and guava. Find it at Mountain View Farmers Market, Los Altos Downtown Farmers Market, or Santana Row Farmers Market.
juice co. LG was founded on the premise that healthy living and fast-paced living can be one and the same. According to Hayden, juice co. LG’s presence at the markets helps maintain “the ambiance of health and nutrition.” They sell organic, cold-pressed juices, each one a hodgepodge of unexpectedly harmonious ingredients. Find it at Saratoga Farmers Market, Los Altos Downtown Farmers Market, or Los Gatos Farmers Market.
The Midwife and The Baker made its mark at the Fort Mason Center Farmers’ Market and has since percolated the Peninsula. Hayden calls this bakery the “new rising star” of the California Farmers’ Markets Association’s markets. The items for sale run the gluten-goods gamut from danishes to loaves to croissants. However, they do have a selection of gluten-free products. Find it at Mountain View Farmers Market, or Santana Row Farmers Market.
A good loaf of sourdough can change your world, according to Zavala, and those from As Kneaded Bakery will be the ones to do it. To fuse her love of her Jewish heritage with her love for the “sourdough bread culture” of the Bay Area, owner Iliana created this now community-supported bakery — a story that particularly captivated the PCFMA. She sells 12 types of loaves, one of which is, of course, the traditional Jewish bread, ‘Challah.’ Find it at Downtown San Leandro Farmers Market, or San Mateo Farmers Market.
The breads from Backhaus are the first to sell out at the College of San Mateo Farmers’ Market, says Zavala. Backhaus’ owner, Anne, moved from Germany in 2013, which is the same time she not-so-coincidentally learned how to make German bread — a good she dearly missed. “Backhaus” is German for bakehouse, and in Anne’s bakehouse, you can find loaves, croissants, morning buns, pretzels and more. Find it at San Mateo Farmers Market.
Spreads & Dressings
In order to land in the California’s Farmers’ Markets Association’s markets, Oren’s Hummus had to out-hummus 20 other applicants, according to Hayden. Oren’s Hummus is a Palo Alto-based restaurant with a Tel Aviv-raised owner, which is a direct testament to the authenticity of the product. Many of the ingredients are sourced directly from Israel. In Hayden’s words, “it’s real hummus.” Find it at Mountain View Farmers Market, Saratoga Farmers Market, Los Altos Downtown Farmers Market, or Milpitas Farmers Market.
WOO GARDEN is dedicated to creating jams jam-packed with flavor as well as creativity. Bet you’ve never heard of peach and Earl Grey tea jam before. “She doesn’t just smack a homey label on it and say, ‘strawberry jam,’” says Zavala. WOO GARDEN jams are made in small batches with local and nonlocal ingredients. Find it at San Jose Downtown Farmers Market.
Jennysong Salad Dressing will have you retiring your ranch dressing to the back of the shelf. With innovative flavors such as Tamari Teriyaki, Premium Miso and White Balsamic Poppy, owner Jenny’s products have bolstered lettuce sales at the markets, one of the California Farmers’ Markets Association’s goals, according to Hayden. Started in 2012 after positive feedback for her food, Jennysong Salad Dressing has been garnering a similar response since. Find it at Mountain View Farmers Market.
“Every market has a kimchi person,” says Hayden, speaking to the products’ newfound popularity. And at the California Farmers’ Markets Association’s markets, that person is Mary from Wise Goat Organics. Mary, whose own passion for nutrition was sparked while working as a produce salesperson at a farmers’ market, has created a line of probiotic foods with nutritional and energizing effects. Kraut and kimchi of every hue are available at her booth. Find it at Saratoga Farmers Market.