Z: As we exited at Valencia Boulevard and turned right, we entered the huge parking lot next to Cougar Stadium. While making another right turn into the parking lot, we noticed a considerable number of parked cars, a throng of shoppers, and three long rows of farmers' awning-shaded tables. There were about 30 vendors, but there was obviously room for more.
R: We began our tour by looking at the variety of items offered by Doctor Farms from Santa Maria. That morning they featured strawberries (no pesticides) at $4 for a 3 pack. They also had an ample selection of fresh produce including broccoli, spinach, lettuce, snow peas, snap peas, celery, and potatoes at reasonable prices.
Z: Sespi River Groves from Fillmore was one of five citrus growers at the market. We were surprised to see navel oranges this late in the season. They were selling briskly along with lemons, loquats, kumquats, and avocados. Susan emphasized the freshness by telling us their fruit is picked the same day it's brought to market.
R: Tangelo Ranch in Piru lived up to their name by presenting an impressive array of citrus including lemons, oranges, and grapefruit, along with 7 varieties of tangerines, and, of course, tangelos. We had an opportunity to speak to Lola who informed us that her husband works the 45-acre ranch off of Highway 126. She raved about the sweetness of the tangerines. We were true believers after devouring a few of those juicy Kinnow ones we purchased.
Z: Since we're talking about citrus, we should mention Fife's Family Farms from Visalia with blood oranges, minneolas, and marsh white grapefruit. They expect to show up with their stone fruits in the next few months. Danny Pritchett, also making the long trek from Visalia, sold Valencia oranges along with a giant assortment of nuts and dried fruits. I couldn't pass up their trail mix, a colorful combination of dried apricots, peaches, golden raisins, black raisins, and walnuts. The nut varieties they sold included shelled walnuts and almonds as well as pistachios in the shell. They also offered dried black figs, peaches, and apricots.
R: Let's not forget Danny Pritchett's Yukon Gold potatoes, red potatoes, sweet onions, and purple and spring garlic with their stems still attached. Next to them was Rosendahl Farms from Fresno with one of their 5 varieties of cherries. They had small and large boxes of Burlat at good prices. These are earliest cherries of the season.
Z: There were still quite a few apples available. Kosmo Ranch which is at many of the farmers' markets sold Granny Smith and Fuji, all no-wax and no-pesticides. Kiki, beamed when we told her we had read about her mother, Patricia Kosmo, in the Los Angeles Times story about farmers' markets. They're soon to become certified organic.
R: Ha's Farm seems to be at so many markets with their mountain-grown, no-wax Fuji apples and their assortment of jellies, syrups, cider vinegar, and apple butter. Zel zoomed in on the apple cinnamon syrup to place in one of our shopping bags. She relishes discovering little treasures that she stores away for gift giving.
Z: We both noticed a sign that said, "All apples are not created equal." It was posted by Rydell Family of Fair Hills Farms in Paso Robles. Along with their Fujis, Pink Ladies, and Galas, they had another sign that proudly declared, "Apples are our business - our only business." They don't wax or spray, but use commercial fertilizers on every variety except Gala.
R: The Oxnard strawberry festival is May's biggest event, and strawberries were certainly in abundance. Harry's Berries from Oxnard had three varieties: Chandler, Seascape, and Gaviota as well as strawberry preserves and strawberry sorbet which they kept chilled in an ice chest. Cortez Farm from Santa Maria displayed Camarosa strawberries and an assortment of vegetables including romaine, beets, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Tomai from Oxnard also had Camarosa strawberries in addition to Diamante. As is the case in so many markets they attend, they had vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, radishes, beets, string beans, and lettuce.
Z: At the next table we met Liz Watkins of the Watkins Farm in Carpinteria. Her son and husband work the farm which has been certified organic for over a year. They showed red, green, and butter lettuce as well as romaine and a bagged lettuce mix. They also sold endive, spinach and a variety of carrots that were about the size of my fingers. I was especially attracted to the passion fruit, probably the most unusual fruit we've ever tasted. Those, along with fava beans, lettuce, and red cabbage, all found their way into our shopping bags, along with those little carrots.
R: Potatoes in many varieties were available from two farmers who are represented in many Southern California farmers' markets. Zuckerman Farms is now online with their web site at: http://www.zfarm.com They sold baby reds, baby Yukons, fingerlings, and mixed bags of baby reds, baby Yukons, and baby purple potatoes. They also displayed kettle chips in addition to their bundles of purple and green asparagus. Weiser Family Farms had their familiar, abundant offerings of Peruvian purple, Yukons, white rose, and small red potatoes.
Z: We were both impressed with F and F Farms from Somis. The F's stand for three generations of Freds who grow hydroponic greens in their 22, 000 square-foot greenhouse. They even showed us photos of their facility. Quite impressive they were! They featured tat soy, arugula, baby bok choy, romaine, and "bright lights" chard, a variety that had bright yellow and bright red stems. They also had Bacon avocados and a line of creative salad dressings.
R: I'm surprised you haven't mentioned flowers. There were some eye-appealing varieties on display. PM Orchids showed both pink and orange asedas as well as some gorgeous orchid varieties that caught our attention. The dendrobium orchids with their white and pink tubular clusters were quite special, too.
Z: Ocean Breeze Nursery from Santa Barbara had some striking cut-flower bouquets of bright red carnations and yellow and pink roses. They also featured Dutch iris and gladiolas. Lim's of Panorama City displayed their attractive bamboo arrangements in all sizes of china and ceramic pots along with their uniquely stylized bonsai creations.
R: Shigeru Nursery was on hand with bouquets of sunflowers, calendulas, stargazer lilies, and red gladiolas. Their most unusual presentation was a striking Star of Bethlehem bouquet of all white flowers which we were told will last 2 weeks after being cut.
Z: We can't forget to mention Ditomaso from Camarillo where we purchased a basket of loquats and a few avocados. There were also boxes of fresh fava beans, lemons, tangerines, Hass and Bacon avocados, onions, and garlic. We've been seeing the first of the sweet onions at the farmers' markets this season. Sproutime was also here with their clover, onion, pea greens, and sunflower sprouts. Their tempting sprouted creations include their bean dips, pastas, hummos varieties, and Baked Sprout Nuggets with Tahini dressing.
R: Speaking of garlic, we spoke to Susan Elmasian who stood proudly behind her table that was heaping with deliciously aromatic smoked garlic. I couldn't help noticing the happy expression on Zel's face. I could tell she had plans for these babies. Susan was handing out recipes incorporating her smoked garlic and told us about her web site http://www.smokingarlic.com.
Z: We spent a few pleasant minutes talking to Jerry Spawn who is assistant manager of the market. The manager is Karen Schott who is kept quite busy with the two other markets in Ventura and Thousand Oaks that are operated by the same group. Jerry told us the group was started by the Ventura City Redevelopment Organization 15 years ago.
R: This market is in its seventh year. When the stone fruits come in during the next few months they expect the number of vendors to increase from 30 to 40. Because of the huge size of the college parking lot, there is no limit on expansion.
Z: As we were talking to Jerry and his wife Laurel, a man with a coupon approached the table. The coupon for one dollar off any item at the market is placed in the local newspaper to promote the market. Looking at the number of coupons he had collected, we knew the promotion was producing results. Viewing the market with its busy farmstands and shoppers carrying multiple bags overflowing with produce, we knew that this operation was a success and offered something valuable to the community.
Santa Clarita Farmers' Market
Reviewed June 2000