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Published July 17, 2012
Volume 20, Number 6


Farmers’ Market Follows Nature’s Schedule, All Year Round



(Can Stock Photo_dwight)


Every Saturday is harvest time at the Pleasanton Farmers' Market. The produce varies from season to season, but the market is a year-round community attraction, offering not only the freshest California-grown fruits and vegetables, but meat, fish, cheeses, and artisan products—not to mention music and entertainment.  

Now in its 19th year, the market provides an invaluable opportunity for the growers who plant, tend, and harvest their own crops to reap the financial rewards of their labor. “If it weren’t for Farmers’ Markets, the small producers would have a hard time surviving,” comments Market Manager Thomas Dorn, who coordinates the rotating schedule of producers, food purveyors, and non-agricultural vendors.

Set up early Saturday morning, rain or shine, at Main and West Angela streets, the Pleasanton market also satisfies the swelling ranks of consumers who long to establish a stronger, more local connection to their food. Crowds of up to 5,000 flock to the market as the state’s bountiful produce season hits full stride.

July brings a perennial favorite, sweet white corn from Brentwood, and the long-awaited assortment of heirloom tomatoes, bred for taste, not disease-resistance or consistency. In fact, it is the heirlooms’ lack of uniformity that makes the Farmers’ Market their perfect venue. “A lot of heirloom tomatoes are hard to sell in supermarkets because they are delicate and have different shapes,” Dorn points out. For growers like Terra Bella Family Farm, whose fields are less than a mile from the market at the south end of Pleasanton, this uniqueness is a prized quality.

Stone fruits—peaches, nectarines, pluots, apricots—are now ripening, while the bountiful vegetable crops include eggplant and okra, red leaf lettuce, and varietal peppers, among them bell, Padrone, Thai, and Italian. Specialty items like grass-fed organic beef from Holding Ranch in Montague and cheeses from Petaluma’s Achadinha Goat Cheese Co. are also highly sought after by shoppers.

The Pleasanton market is run by the not-for-profit Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association (PCFMA), the largest association of its kind in the country, operating 70-plus markets weekly in the Bay Area. The organization is a staunch advocate for local agriculture, encouraging newcomers and working hard to provide a way for current growers to remain on the land they are cultivating, often as part of a second or third generation.

PCFMA has also forged relationships with several community nonprofits to promote healthier eating through a stronger local food system and nutrition education. The Pleasanton market and Open Heart Kitchen have partnered to collect donations of fresh produce for the 3,500 meals Open Heart serves each week in Livermore, Dublin, and Pleasanton. Shoppers are welcome to purchase some extra fruits or vegetables and ask the vendor to package them separately, so they can be conveniently deposited in one of the collection boxes throughout the market.

The market is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A scaled-down version in front of the historic Pleasanton Hotel is held monthly, in conjunction with the city’s First Wednesday program. Find out what else is fresh at www.pcfma.com

 

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