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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!47 comments