First Local Farmers’ Market

 Excitement has been building all week about the opening day for Fort Bragg’s seasonal farmers’ market.  With cash in hand and high hopes, I braved the gale force wind and the limited parking at their new (old) site, looking for some delicious early spring vegetables.  We have been spoiled again this year with the winter CSA boxes from Noyo Hill Farm and Noyo Food Forest’s farm stand at Fort Bragg High School.  I was anticipating spring onions, early fava beans and perhaps some strawberries.  Instead, I was surprised to see almost no produce at all! 

 We had both goat cheese vendors, our grass-fed beef rancher, local honey, albeit last fall’s, the Garden Bakery, our egg vendor, and a whole row of the usually packed vegetable sellers who’s tables were laden with rows of garden vegetable and flower starts.  Of course, my garden is no more ready for seedlings at this early date than I am ready to prepare it.  There are redwood roots to be dug and separated, fava beans to be harvested and the green matter dug in, and irrigation to be tested, unclogged and set.  Of course, there is that pesky issue of sunlight on the beds.  This early in the year, shadows cast by the tallest redwoods begin around 2:00P, especially in the lower beds.  Tomatoes?  Peppers?  I don’t think so, as the purple sprouting broccoli is just starting to sprout!  The compost bin sports its spring growth of weed seedlings, and the clay-laden soil is just waiting to compact into its cement-like summer form if worked too soon.

 Where are the perennial greens such as kale and chard?  Where is the tender spring lettuce, showing colorful heads in the hoop houses?  Where are the bright red yet tender strawberries that are the sweet harbingers of spring?  Where are the over-wintered onions that are sending up new spring shoots, both delicate and rich, especially when roasted whole?  This is not to say that I do not love the fresh new goat cheese, the rich and savory grass-fed beef short ribs, the fabulous pies and cookies baked fresh for the day’s market.  All of these offerings augment the locally grown veggies that bring me to the stalls every week.  A vibrant and successful market is a diverse market, pleasing the customers’ every whim.

 I must table my enthusiasm for a few more days.  The Friday Mendocino market has a collection of farmers that we do not usually see in Fort Bragg.  I will make a stop tomorrow outside Ukiah to pick up freshly picked, hand-sorted strawberries at Saecho Farm.  It is unfortunate that today, my local farmers’ market disappoints.  However, I continue to be blessed to live in an area where I can procure locally produced seasonal specialties at roadside stands and market farms. 

 It is yet early, and the cold northwest wind whistles between the trees, and the fog lingers on the western horizon.  It is that in-between season that promises so much and yet delivers so little.  The sun will come, the ground will dry and warm, and the beautiful rainbow of produce will again populate the tables at the market, inspiring meals to come.

Post by Julia Conway on May 6th, 2010