Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Saturday marketplace sprouts at Santa Maria Town Center
BY WENDY THIES SELL
Purple cauliflower, golden beets, green beans, red strawberries, white onions, peach peaches, yellow lemons, rainbow chard; I discovered a kaleidoscopic variety of fresh, locally grown produce at the new farmers market at the Santa Maria Town Center.
Growers and artisans sell their produce and products from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. every Saturday.
Four years in the making, the new Farmers Market Experience outside of the mall, in a parking lot between Macy’s and Sears, started in June.
Market manager Cynthia Laschiver has been persistent in the creation of the weekend farmers market: “Lots of money, lots of fees, lots of permits, lots of advertising,” she said.
She felt strongly that a Saturday marketplace was needed in Santa Maria.
“Most households here are two-income households and they can’t attend a market Monday through Friday. When you go up to San Luis [Obispo], there’s possibly close to a dozen markets on the weekend up there, maybe even more. Here there was not one,” Laschiver told me.
“We needed to do something for the average working population and that is what this market is for,” she said.
Central Coast growers are pleased, too.
Perez Farms of Santa Maria takes its produce to farmers markets in San Luis Obispo County, but now there is a closer locale.
“I think it has a lot of potential. I think it’s still early,” Adrien Ruiz said of the Saturday Santa Maria farmers market. “I have some pretty good expectations for it.”
The day I visited the market, Ruiz was staffing the Perez Farms booth for the grower, his aunt Amelia Perez.
Their colorful cauliflower in four different distinct hues was mesmerizing; purple graffiti, orange cheddar, green panther, and regular white cauliflower were all grown in a field west of Santa Maria.
Perez Farms also sold heirloom purple haze carrots, broccoli, spinach, green beans, lettuce, strawberries, and four varieties of beets—white, striped, golden, and red—among other vegetables and fruit.
I strolled a couple of feet to the next booth where grower Richard Newell was selling beautiful produce with sister-in-law Sara Boyd, who had her adorable sleeping baby, Abram, in a carrier on her chest.
The whole family runs Pepper Creek Family Farms in the Huasna Valley near Arroyo Grande. They organically farm 15 acres of row crops, onions, tomatoes, corn, and more.
In January, the farm built a 4,300-square-foot greenhouse that houses its hydroponic farming system, growing produce in water without soil. The family can grow vegetables consistently year-round, such as living lettuces, Asian greens, watercress, arugula, bok choy, and tat soi.
I was impressed with their impeccably clean and fresh produce.
“We take pride in what we do,” Newell said.
Pepper Creek sells produce at 10 different farmers markets on the Central Coast, and the family is happy to add Santa Maria to its list.
The Best Apple Co. of Nipomo had a booth selling zucchini, coconut, banana, rosemary garlic, and sourdough and jalapeno cheese breads, in addition to carrot cake and a large variety of local jams and marmalades.
The owner of Cisneros Olives of Hanford had more than a dozen different varieties of olives on display, including almond-stuffed, Kalamata with Merlot, Sicilian garlic-stuffed, and plain green, in addition to olive oils.
Several local flower growers sold cacti, succulents, and bouquets of roses, tuberose, and lilies at reasonable prices.
Dey Dey’s Best Beef Ever from Lompoc parked a refrigerated truck at the market containing high-end, pasture-raised beef and poultry such as steaks, roasts, sausages, chicken, and pork.
“This stuff is all grass fed, hormone free,” Laschiver raved to me about Best Beef Ever. “I mean, this stuff tastes different—it totally tastes different!”
There really is something for everyone here and practically any vegetable you could want or need, all grown by our neighbors and picked just hours before.
To top it off, adding to your outdoor shopping experience, live musicians perform on a stage during the farmers market.
I plan to make this a regular Saturday stop.
Sun food and wine columnist Wendy Thies Sell encourages you to support our local farmers. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.