Celebrating National Farmers Market Week!

cherry tomatoes and purple peppers

Yesterday kicked off National Farmers Market week. In anticipation of this weeklong observance, and because I needed to restock my kitchen with fresh fruits and veggies, I headed to one of the many farmers markets in a 30-mile radius of our California home.

I have to admit, there are some real positives to being a displaced Texan in Dinuba, California. The mountains are half an hour to the east, the coast is a little more than three hours to the west and a reasonable drive can get you to some pretty fantastic cities.

Then there’s the agriculture. The city of Dinuba, with a population of approximately 23,000, is completely surrounded by acres and acres of orchards. In fact, the entire central valley of California is the state’s most productive agricultural area with more than 230 crops being grown. From almonds to zucchini and a whole lot in between, this area is rich with crops…and that means a lot of farmers markets!

Visalia Farmers Market

Welcome sign at the Visalia Farmers Market.

We started to seek out fruit stands, farm stores and area markets not long after beginning our tenure here, which was the first week of January, 2013. You’d think not much would be going on that time of year. But we’ve since learned the opposite. The best citrus fruits and persimmons are harvested in the winter season, as well as a whole slew of winter vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and carrots.

mandarin orange

Gold Nugget mandarin oranges and persimmons at the Vineyard Farmers Market, Fresno, CA.

lemons

Lemons!

table with beets, turnips and winter squash

Table full of beets, turnips and winter squash, Vineyard Farmers Market, Fresno, CA

vineyard farmers market

Perusing the vendors at the Vineyard Farmers Market in Fresno, CA.

As the months went on, we could slowly see the evolution of various crops, which included the beautiful, but short-lived bloom season. The sweet, sugary aroma of blossoms fills the air and the central valley is painted with varying hues of white and pink. It’s really quite a sight to see. But your window of opportunity is a short one – two or three weeks at best. It’s disappointing to see all of that beauty just disappear, but wait! Is that fruit I see?? Bring on the spring and summer season with all of that delectable fruit!! Stone fruit (or drupe) orchards are everywhere and once harvesting begins, the farmers markets abound with countless varieties of peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots and apricots.

plum trees in bloom

White blooms on plum trees.

pink blooms on peach trees

Bright pink blooms on peach trees.

almond orchard in white bloom

A beautiful almond orchard in full white bloom.

Since we are located smack dab in the middle of the central valley, there are farmers markets everywhere. And they’re not just on weekends either. It seems like on almost any given day, you can find a local farmers market. We’ve visited several in Fresno, including the Vineyard Farmers Market where I tasted my very first persimmon. We’ve ventured up to Clovis for the Friday night market in Old Town. Live music and tons of vendors made it more than just a place to pick up your peaches and plums. I even snagged this super cute t-shirt there.

 

lettuce turnip the beet t-shirt

Lettuce turnip the beet t-shirt

But the one market we frequent most often is the Saturday morning farmers market in Visalia. Just a mere 23 miles away, this market is large enough for optimum variety but not so large that you’re overwhelmed. You’ll find a great assortment of vendors and products including farm fresh eggs, berries, cheese makers, apiarists (bee-keepers), the ever-popular hummus stand and all of the local fruit and vegetable farms from around the area. From 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., people stream in and out of the blocked-off parking lot like frenzied ants. Tote bags, coolers and baskets are on every arm to hold and protect the precious fresh goods. Bags of okra are weighed, bunches of greens are bought and perfect peaches are selected. Peppers and tomatoes become edible sculptures as they shine in the sunlight with such vibrancy. This is farmers market heaven.

tomatoes and peppers

Bins of tomatoes and peppers.

peaches

Picking out the peaches!

bell peppers

Varieties of bell peppers.

okra and green beans

Okra and green beans

eggplants and loofahs

Eggplants and loofahs – also called ridge gourds.

Visalia Farmers Market

A calm moment captured at the Visalia Farmers Market, Visalia, CA.

grapes

Just one of many kinds of grapes grown in the central valley.

nectarines

Beautiful nectarines!

peppers

Curly peppers!

We miss home, our families and Texas. But we’re fortunate to have such wonderful markets nearby. There is satisfaction in not only supporting local farms but in preparing and eating such fresh and healthy food. It just tastes better.

I hope that you live someplace where farmers markets exist. Local food supports local farms, families and the economy. Plus knowing where your food comes from provides peace of mind in this crazy age of genetically modified, chemically treated, heavily processed food. What will you do to celebrate National Farmers Market week? Where is your favorite farmers market?

If you’d like to know more, check out these links!

Visalia Farmers Market

Vineyard Farmers Market

USDA Official Farmers Market Page

47 comments

47 comments to Celebrating National Farmers Market Week!

  • Jeannette Paladino  says:

    Pamela — what wonderful images of the farmers markets. I live in NYC and, believe it or not, we have what we call green markets that sprout weekends all over the city. Farmers bring their produce from surrounding counties. I was just as my local green market today and bought some delicious tomatoes, fresh basil and peaches. Can’t wait to eat the tomatoes. I’ll add a little mayo and a couple of sprigs of basis. Yum!

  • Jason B  says:

    I love farmers markets. The produce looks great there.

  • Christina  says:

    Oh, what different crops there are from Washington. It reminded me of a visit to California where we stopped at an orange grove and they graciously let us pick our own. We have apple orchards, so picking oranges was a real treat. I realized I haven’t been to our local Farmer’s Market this summer and I’ll have to go straight away.

  • Niekka McDonald  says:

    I love the Farmer Market. I’m anxious to visit the markets here in Georgia. Central Cali is beautiful. Brings back memories of my childhood and taking trips there to visit family.

  • Christine | The Traveloguer  says:

    Thanks for the virtual tour of such a gorgeous farmers market, I felt like I was there, and now I’m really wishing I was!
    I never knew plum and peach trees had such lovely flowers! :)

  • Kate F Eaton  says:

    Pamela – this blog post was a delight to read. The pictures, the writing were superb. A young family member now gone once told me in detail of the farmers’ markets around Clovis. Reading your post brought his memory, and the desire to see the markets for myself, to my heart. Thanks for sharing the bounty!

  • Don Purdum  says:

    Hi Pamela,

    I too love farmers markets. Great produce and meats and great prices. I live in Lancaster, PA and we have one downtown that is simply amazing. We go every week and buy fresh produce that we don’t find the Amish selling. It’s healthy, delicious, and fun.

    The had an article about National Farmers Market Week on the news the other day. York, PA is only 30 minutes away and I think they said it was ranked #30 in the country. It’s a neat market as well.

    Thanks for a great post Pamela. It looks like your local markets in California are just as fun and interesting. Your pictures are spectacular.

    Thanks again!
    ~ Don Purdum

  • Erica  says:

    Sorry if this is a duplicate comment. I left a comment earlier in the week but I don’t think it submitted. I too am amazed by how many farmer’s markets are here in Los Angeles. There are a ton on Sundays and they all during the week as well. I’m surprised I see almost anyone in the markets buying vegetables with this many markets. I love when my favorites come in season, and yes, their presence can be gone in just a few weeks. You have to take advantage of them while they are here!

  • Doug Wojtczak  says:

    All those pictures of fresh fruits and vegetables are making me hungry. Thanks for sharing.

  • Meredith Wouters  says:

    I love farmer’s markets! Your pictures are wonderful, and make me want to go check out our local market this weekend…

  • Derrick Coyle  says:

    Great cover and tantalizing pics of the farmers market, Pamela! Your vibrant and colourful photos are like art. There seems something very wholesome about stepping away from all the packaging and processing of big box grocery outlets and finding produce in such a natural state. Also a nice reminder of California’s rich indigenous range of offerings (beyond oranges and fine wine, of course).

    • Pamela  says:

      Thank you Derrick! I had a lot of fun shopping and taking pictures of all the wonderful treats available! Yes California produces almost half of the country’s fruits, nuts and vegetables with grapes as the top valued market. And for almonds and pistachios, CA is the # 1 producer in the world with more than 80% of the world’s almond production. That’s pretty impressive! And another reason why we need rain!! Thanks for your comment!

  • Krystyna Lagowski  says:

    Getting hungry looking at all those wonderful photos! I’m lucky enough to live near St. Lawrence Market, which is a fabulous place to get fresh produce, meat and fish all year ’round. On Saturday mornings, there’s a special farmer’s market across the street, where you can get all kinds of incredible and exotic delicacies, from elk to home made jams and baked goods. It’s almost always ridiculously packed – there’s even a local constable for traffic control!

    • Pamela  says:

      How fortunate for you Krystyna! I wish I had the access to fresh meat and fish too but I’ll sure take what I can get. Sounds like that Saturday market would be fun and good people watching too! ;) Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Maxwell Ivey  says:

    Hi Pamela; well for a transplanted texan you must feel right at home. sounds like the central valley is similar to the valley in texas. and I haven’t known you long, but I know enough to know that farmer’s market week is kind of like christmas or monica to you. :) do the vendors have any better selections or lower prices in honor of the week? do any of them have any children’s rides or activities. always on the look out for new markets. thanks for sharing and enjoy all the great produce, max

    • Pamela  says:

      Hi Max! The central valley is sure similar in temperature that’s for sure! You know, I’m not aware of any special events that are happening in honor of NFM week, but the one I frequent might be doing something on Saturday. I’ll just have to go again to find out! Thanks as always for stopping by!

  • Arleen  says:

    Your images were wonderful. You could almost touch the produce. We have a farm that we go to twice a week for fresh produce. New Jersey gets a bad rap but it is called the garden state for a reason. The blueberries are locally grown here. However, with that said I am a native to California and miss the produce there. I love artichokes and they come from Watsonville, CA. I could go on and on

    • Pamela  says:

      Yes the artichokes! Would you believe that my hubby and I have been to the artichoke festival there?! We passed through headed to Monterey for the weekend and decided to stop and go to the festival. We had some wonderful artichoke dishes including grilled, soup and even in a cheesy dip! I’m sure whenever artichoke day rolls around, I’ll post those pictures! My next hope is to make the garlic festival in Gilroy! I could go on and on too!

  • Mina A Joshi  says:

    I love visiting farmers markets too but ours doesn’t have the variety that your market has. I loved the purple peppers. I have lots of recipes for using most of the vegetables you have pictured!! The ridge gourd – makes a super curry and the ridged dark green long vegetable next to the ridge gourds are called Bitter gourds and they are so healthy for you. I wish we could get those in our markets.

    • Pamela  says:

      Mina, I had never seen those purple peppers in my life until this market! I haven’t gotten any but plan to next time! They’d be great with your stuffed pepper recipe! :) I haven’t had or cooked with either the ridge gourd or the bitter gourd. I do like a good curry! Maybe you’ll share that recipe with me!

  • Carl  says:

    So much great finds there. Farmers Markets are like an adventure. Each time you visit, it seems that something new will present itself. Where I lived in the U.S., it seemed that people were starting to open up and understand the importance of these places. If I were in your area, I’d be there as often as I need food!

    • Pamela  says:

      I pretty much am Carl! I plan meals around what I can pick up, knowing what’s in season. I too think more and more people are appreciating the farm to table and slow food movements that have been slowly increasing the past few years. Thanks for your comment!

  • Michele LoBosco  says:

    Good for you for visiting all the local markets. I live in California too, and am surrounded by lots of good farmer’s markets and hardly ever go. Your images make all the produce look so appealing….!
    Michele

    • Pamela  says:

      Well Michele I hope that my post might inspire you to visit one soon! The quality of everything is always just so much better than what you’ll find in the grocery store!

  • Jeri  says:

    I love farmers’ markets so very much. Each time I’m in a new city and there’s one being held, hubby and I make a point to stop. In May we made it to the one in DuPont Circle in DC as well as one in Sante Fe, NM. When I was living in NC I really liked going to Asheville since their market was a year round daily one.

    • Pamela  says:

      Jeri, I have stayed in DuPont Circle in DC and missed out on their market! But my hubby and I are just the same when we are traveling! What an awesome way to take a bite out of local culture!

  • Ken Dowell  says:

    Living in New Jersey we are not so lucky in terms of the availability of farmer’s markets. But August is prime time for us and especially for peaches, tomatoes and corn. I try hard to buy all of our fruit and vegetables from local farmers and regularly go to farm markets in Montclair, N.J., and Warwick, N.Y. Your post is a fitting tribute for Farmers Market Week.

    • Pamela  says:

      Ken it sounds like you make the best of what is available to you! The peaches, tomatoes and corn all are booming here too! Thank you for supporting the local markets and farms!

  • Tim  says:

    I recently went to an amazing farmers market in Campbell CA and much like your one it had everything. Came home with some of the best heirloom tomatoes I have ever tasted; so gorgeous. Also came back with pluets, peaches with fuzz, apples, mushrooms, and herbs. We were doing a roadtrip so we had quite a bounty and dinner was our treats from the market; on crackers. The Central Valley is quite a place and I am sure your access to fresh everything is incredible.

    • Pamela  says:

      Tim I love your enthusiasm for making dinner from your market finds! Lately we’ve been having similar dinners concentrated around lots of peaches, nectarines and figs, cheese and crackers…oh and a glass of wine! I tasted the best strawberries ever in my life from a roadside stand owned and run by the Vietnamese couple who live there. Just behind the stand you can see their field. Even the strawberries I buy at the market don’t compare or last as long as these do! Just goes to show, fresher is better! And I’m enjoying the access to it all while I can because I know eventually I won’t be here anymore.

  • Beth Niebuhr  says:

    We have a couple of Farmers’ Markets around where I live but noting like you have shown and described. I do miss living in California where they are so accessible.

    • Pamela  says:

      Even the smaller markets need love too Beth, as I’ve read sometimes they’re the ones struggling to get more vendors to attract more people!

  • William Butler  says:

    Hi Pamela,
    We live in a mountain farmland community and we have farmers throughout with their kiosks to market their goods.
    It’s like having several farmer’s markets. :)

    I love the sense of community, and I really enjoy all the many colors of the fruit and vegetables, and the blossoms on the fruit trees. Spectacular!

    Best Regards,
    Bill

  • Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser  says:

    Hi Pamela, I just was smiling ear to ear because I too have a Fresh Produce Market (open 7 days a week-12 hours a day), Fresh Seafood Market, Fresh Butcher/Meat Market, Greek Market, Italian and even a Latino Market all within 5 miles of my Oceanside home. Am I not lucky!!! Plus, I have my own garden (yes,in Florida it is possible) I have an over abundance of ripe tomatoes that I am up to my elbows in. Creating recipes using them. I have canned tomato/ marinara sauces already. I had a bumper crop of mint several weeks ago and created many recipes from it for smoothies, main dishes, side dishes. Lemons and Limes, Oranges, coconuts, bananas grow on our land. My herb garden is housed in a very large screened-in porch in containers that I tend every morning. The containers are on wheels/casters and roll easily for me to place in direct sunlight, partial or no sunlight. The room is so fragrant! Loveeeee the Post and Pics. Great job Pamela. Happy “Recipe Hunting”! Cheryl “Cheffie Cooks” Wiser.

    • Pamela  says:

      Cheryl, you may have the ultimate market availability! I am growing a small garden but I’m a newbie so we’re just seeing what grows and hoping for the best! My jalapeño pepper plant is having no issues producing peppers! Nor is the serrano or grape tomato plant! We’re still waiting to see what our bell peppers, zucchini and cucumbers will do – we were a little late to the game with those! Screened-in porches are a norm in Florida I know and that sounds like the perfect place to have your herbs! I have two rosemary plants, garlic chives, and thyme that are all out of control! Not really – just happy in the soil and sun they’re in. I love walking outside and snipping off fresh herbs to use when cooking! Glad you enjoyed the post and pictures! See you soon!

  • William Rusho  says:

    Farmers markets are one of those local joys few people actually visit. I like going to farmers markets, you get to support local farmers etc. I just bought some wine, grapes locally grown, the other day at mine.

    • Pamela  says:

      Excellent William! I like the connections you can create with the growers, getting fresher produce and knowing that the growers get more from my dollars spent than if I were shopping in a store.

  • Susan Cooper  says:

    I am a huge Farmer’s market fan. That said, your pictures were so awesome. We are very fortunate to be living in a ares where fresh produce abundant. To me that is best. The part the is worrisome is the affect the changing climate is having on the growing season, weather and the habit. If we aren’t careful, we could loose our plant and all that we now enjoy… sigh!

    • Pamela  says:

      I hear you Susan. There’s a story on the local news every few days of farmers who are destroying their orchards because of the severe drought. It’s heart wrenching to drive by and see all of these big trees uprooted.

  • Donna Janke  says:

    I love farmer’s markets. There are several in my city in the summer. The biggest is open only on Saturday’s with entertainment, but there are smaller ones open on other days and even one or two on a weeknight.

    • Pamela  says:

      Yes Donna, that’s how the markets around here are. Not everyone’s schedules are the same and having markets on different days opens up opportunities for people. It’s great!

  • Lenie  says:

    I absolutely love your post and am so jealous of everything you have available there. I love farmers markets and I turn into a zombie at the really good ones – just zone everyone else out. That’s the way I felt looking at your gorgeous pictures. Living in Ontario, Canada, most of those products can’t be grown here.
    Lenie

    • Pamela  says:

      Thanks so much Lenie! It is fun having so much available. I’ve developed and cooked some really tasty meals centered around our goodies from the market!

  • Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie)  says:

    These pictures were so beautiful Pamela! And I do envy your close proximity to so much fresh produce! What a wonderful experience to actually have access to apiarists with fresh fresh honey! I’ve never seen an almond grove, much less in full bloom. Stunning!

    • Pamela  says:

      Thank you Jacquie! I snapped most of those photos just this past Saturday! Yes the bloom season is something else! It’s fun to drive around all these orchard roads admiring the blooming trees, although there is an actual ‘Bloom Trail’ which is fun as well.

  • Kitty  says:

    I might have to go to the market today! Love the pictures. Very inspiring.

    • Pamela  says:

      Thanks Kitty! It’s hard not to be inspired when you see all of that wonderfully fresh food at the market!

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