It’s the height of harvest season, and East Bay farmers markets are at their best. We guide you to what we love most at each of our favorites.
Photography by Sara Remington
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In the last few years, farmers markets have transformed themselves from ad hoc spots for buying fresh produce and supporting local farmers into festive gathering places that are the center of the community. Today’s farmers market is a destination where you can meet friends, entertain the kids, eat a meal (or two), rub elbows with chefs, learn a new recipe, chat with local politicians and business owners, and, yes, do your shopping.
All of the East Bay’s neighborhood farmers markets have stellar produce, regionally sourced meat, fish, and dairy products—and the ubiquitous kettle corn. But, as regulars know, each market has its own character. Here are some of the best things at the markets we like most—just in time for the big harvests of late summer and fall.
Market director Harv Singh calls this new market, located on the 16-acre historic landmark Forest Home Farms, “a weekly celebration of local food, local farms, and local history.” The farm, something of a hidden treasure, has a new visitors center, a tractor museum, and a view of grazing sheep. It’s a destination unto itself, even for out-of-towners.
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May through November; 19953 San Ramon Valley Blvd., between the Bollinger and Alcosta exits off Interstate 680, www.sanramonfarmersmarket.org.
-Farm tours, which run every Saturday at 11 a.m.
-Organic stone fruit, including peaches, nectarines, plums, and pluots, from Lone Oak Ranch in Reedley.
-Hot cinnamon-sugar doughnuts made on-site, without trans fats.
On Thursday nights, Todos Santos Plaza is part farmers market, part free concert. The Music and Market series features a different live band every week throughout the summer. Market-goers come from far and wide prepared to kick off their shoes and dance to rockabilly, ragtime, reggae, funk, and Beatles and Frank Sinatra tribute bands—and just about everything in between. Not surprisingly, the produce is almost a sideline here, but it’s arranged around the perimeter of the park, so it’s still easy to find what you need.
Thursdays 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., May through October; Tuesdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., year-round; Todos Santos Plaza at Willow Pass Road and Grant Street, www.cityofconcord.org/recreation/events/downtownevents.htm.
-The hot food. Represented cuisines include everything from raw vegan and a range of Latin American to barbecue.
-The entertainment. Come early to grab dinner and a spot on the grass for the live music. After the concert on some Thursday nights, a free film is shown.
-Almonds and pistachios in varieties from chili-roasted to yogurt-dipped from Malik Ranch outside Modesto.
Local chefs and families with kids walk and bike to this pretty market, which has especially pristine produce. The market’s involvement in Pleasant Hill schools includes subsidizing the cost of its produce for an elementary school salad bar, which director Karen Stiles hopes will encourage the students to grow up to be farmers market shoppers. “The kids get baby bok choy, pea shoots, whatever’s in season at the market that we think they’ll like, all chopped up into their salad mix,” she says.
Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., May through November; 100 Gregory Ln. at Trelany Road (in the parking lot of the city hall), www.cccfm.org.
-The peaceful setting. Even live music doesn’t disrupt the calm, as koi lazily break the surface of the reed-lined pond to nibble the kernels of kettle corn surreptitiously thrown in by the kids.
-Rose Lane Farm’s cut flowers and heirloom tomatoes.
-Local olive oils from Big Paw Grub.