Sacramento loves its farmers! And it shows. Yesterday marked the second week of a new Capitol farmers’ market at 6th Street and Capitol Mall. This market is just one more example of Sacramentan’s fondness for local produce. In fact, we lead the nation in farmers’ markets and roadside farm stands, according to a new study released and conducted by Shermain Hardesty, a Cooperative Extension economist with the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
The new market on Capitol Mall won’t last long. It runs every Thursday through September 30th from 10:00 A.M. to 1:30 P.M.
I stopped by the market yesterday to investigate. Unlike the other weekly markets, I found plenty of elbow room here. I had more time to ask each farmer about their wares.
An heirloom tomato farmer empathized with my home gardening woes. Although he had plump, gorgeous heirlooms covering his table, he said the cool start to summer set him back by about three weeks. Yet, his tomatoes are far ahead of mine. My heirlooms are still hanging green on the vine. So I paid $2.50 for a heavy Brandywine, which I intend to savor in thick slices with chunks of fresh mozzarella.
A melon farmer talked with me about this year’s crop as a luscious smell rose to meet my nose. The perfectly ripe orbs showed pale green and pale orange through their thin matted skins. After detailed explanations about the various flavors I might expect, I selected two happy, juicy melons for less than $5.
Although I’m a vegetarian, I decided to talk to the local free-range meat farmer. At the Sunday market, his booth is usually flanked (pun intended!) by swarms of people. Yesterday, I was able to speak with him at length. He had combined forces with the free-range chicken farmer so they could share the burden of working another market. He said his Sunday customers were pleased to come out to this market, because they could have first dibs on popular items like tri-tip, which he said are normally sold out by the time Sunday rolls around. Since my three brothers-in-law are currently visiting, each of them weighing in at over 6’ 3”, and one of them a hearty and devoted meat-eater, I plunked down $17.50 for a chicken I was told would easily feed four hungry men.
A local baker took the time to help me plan which tortillas might go best with the menu I was considering for dinner. She also gave me a sample of one of her freshly baked cookies. The caramelized sugars in her whole wheat and oat chocolate chip cookie danced and crunched in my mouth. I paid $1.25 to take one more home with me.
And of course, several stalls were overflowing with the ripe harvest of peaches, nectarines, pluots, plums, vegetables, and healthy produce. I heard the farmers explaining patiently, and repeatedly, to new customers what a pluot was, or the difference between a freestone peach and a cling peach.
When I asked each farmer why they were drawn to participate in this particular market, they each gave a similar answer: meeting new customers, expanding awareness, and hopefully, earning just a little more money during the week.
As I loaded my groceries into my car and was driving home, the heavy perfume of the melons filled my car with the bright scents of summer. I sure hope that Sacramento’s love of fresh farm produce continues to flourish in this fine city!