Z: When we decided to visit the Newhall farmers' market, I didn't realize that we would be journeying back into motion picture history. Reuben's the film buff who's quite knowledgeable about the old westerns that were so popular. He even knew who Woody Strode was.
R: Whoa, Nellie or should I say, Whoa, Zellie? You need to tell people that Woody Strode was one of the people honored on the Walk of Western Stars that is Newhall's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Zel mentions Woody Strode because we parked our car alongside his star on the sidewalk. The stars line the sidewalks on both sides of San Fernando Road.
Z: We were parked on San Fernando Road close to 5th Street. The farmers' market is in a giant parking lot between 5th and 6th Street. For our readers who are not familiar with this community, Newhall is the older section of the city of Santa Clarita. The market was started in July 2004 as part of an effort to revitalize this old downtown area.
R: As is the case in so many communities, businesses and people move to newer areas, and the downtown area suffers. Santa Clarita community leaders decided they needed to bring people and businesses back to the downtown hub. Jenny Aurit is the project manager who currently supervises the market project for the city while Lisa Morgan acts as the market manager who handles contacts with vendors and the functioning of the market.
Z: As we began our market tour, we checked in with Lisa who is an employee of Skyline Florists and sells their floral bouquets at this market. Her table sported a colorful display that spotlighted Bells of Ireland, sweet-smelling red, yellow, and purple freesia, pink larkspur, amaranthus, and aromatic white lilies grown by Tim Carrillo of Leona Valley. More about him later.
R: May is a transition month for farmers' market shoppers. Some fruits are winding down while others are just emerging. In this instance there were still bags of navel oranges available from Gama Farms while they were selling the-first-of-the-season Bing cherries.
Z: Visiting farmers markets, we usually encounter Gama Farms from Arvin with their fine selection of potatoes. In addition to their russets, red rose and white potatoes, they offered baby red, Peruvian purple, banana fingerlings, peewee banana, French fingerlings, and Yukon gold. They also sold garlic, shallots, and three onion varieties: sweet, red, and brown.
R: Kirby Farms was also transitioning, selling Fuji apples they announced are unwaxed and introducing just-picked stone fruits like Bing cherries and white and yellow peaches. Nearby, Budwood Farms of Fallbrook displayed an "organic" sign above a table filled with tomatoes, avocados, apricots, tangerines, red grapefruit, and limes.
Z: Martinez Farm of Fillmore also featured citrus with tangerines, lemons, pink grapefruit, and bags of Valencia oranges. It was a great day for orange lovers with the presence of both navels and Valencias. Martinez also had Hass avocados, but I was drawn to their tempting, plump, oyster mushrooms at a very reasonable price. They were so lustrous they looked as if they had just been polished.
R: I really enjoyed our mushroom feast the next day. I also savored the Pink Lady and Fuji apples we bought from George Miramontes of V and V Farms from Lodi. George had a few minutes to tell us about his family farm operated by his mom and dad and their three sons. In spite of his four-hour drive to reach the market, he seemed quite alert in the early evening. Their farm encompasses 300 acres with 200 of those acres devoted to wine grapes. They have 30 acres of Bing cherry trees and 40 acres of apples.
Z: I was delighted with the selection of vegetables and greens offered by Lore's and Areola, both of Oxnard, and Azteca Farm from Fillmore. All three also displayed a sea of Camarosa strawberries. In addition to the strawberries, Lore's had asparagus, spinach, beets, giant artichokes, yellow and green zucchini, Asian cucumbers, cilantro, and fava beans. Wow! Fresh fava beans! What a treat to bring home!
R: Azteca displayed cabbage, beets, carrots, spinach, watercress, scallions, broccoli, iceberg lettuce, and our favorite fennel bulb that conveniently found its way into our shopping bag. They also brought intense color to their table with their chard display that featured green, red, and rainbow varieties.
Z: I asked about their bunches of alfalfa. Irma was kind enough to give me the recipe for a great healthy alfalfa drink. She puts a whole bunch of alfalfa and the juice of one lemon in a blender and whirs. Then she combines this mixture with a gallon of water and adds sugar and ice to create a delicious drink loaded with calcium, chlorophyll, and fiber.
R: Areola had the largest selection of produce at the market. Great greens galore! They really had them--spinach and baby spinach, romaine, red leaf, and baby lettuces, alfalfa, dandelion greens, collard greens, cilantro, scallions, and arugula. Shoppers also found cabbage, three kinds of bell peppers (red, green, and yellow), red and yellow beets, Hass avocados, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, jicama, brown and red onions, garlic, and fresh ginger that's rarely seen at farmers' markets.
Z: While we were walking around, we met Tim Carrillo of BIG John's Cherry Orchard in Leona Valley. He had brought some lavender lilacs that he grows to be offered with the Skyline flowers. Tim told us that his orchard is strictly a you-pick operation that will have cherries from June to early July. His family owned and operated ranch grows Bings, Utah Giants, Black Tartarians, Brooks, Early Burlats, and Rainiers. The picking price this year is $2.75 a pound. That's very reasonable for fresh cherries.
R: Tim told us not to miss the Cherry Parade in Leona Valley on June 10 this year. He also invited us to check out his website at http://www.gatherafruitfulharvest.com/ As we were talking to him, we could hear the sounds of Peruvian pipes in the background. Jose Davila Paz plays bamboo flutes, bongos, maracas, and guiro. And he sings too. He's a regular at this market.
Z: I think it's cute that he comes with his mother and his girlfriend. Jose has recorded four CD's he was selling that day. I was so entranced by his Andean Memories I had to buy one.
R: By this time we were feeling quite hungry. I looked at my watch and it was 6:30. We walked over to the Gourmet Tamale Factory from San Fernando. They sell three varieties that are vegetarian: Veggie, Sweet Corn, and Sweet Pineapple. We shared a Veggie and a Sweet Corn as we casually dined at one of the picnic tables.
Z: When we finished, we walked over to Korn Cobbler. They came equipped with a giant roaster on wheels they tow to the market. In it they prepare corn, baked potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, and plantains. They also featured caramel apples and strawberries dipped in chocolate. Reuben, of course, had to have his favorite sweet corn. So I joined him in corn nibbling. With so many of the farmers' markets having food vendors offering animal protein, it was refreshing to see this market with food vegetarians could eat.
R: As I tried to shield my ears from the booming sounds of Zel chomping on her corn, I could hear the competing whistle from the Metrolink train a block away. After our fine dining experience, we decided to conclude our market experience with the Walk of the Western Stars.
Z: We strolled down San Fernando Road and Newhall Avenue and looked at each of the 64 bronze and terrazzo tiles on the sidewalk. I recognized names like Jack Palance, Jane Russell, and Roy Rogers, but many of the others were a mystery to me. Before this story ends, Reuben better tell you and me about Woody Strode.
R: People don't realize that Newhall was a community where many early Hollywood westerns were filmed. In fact, silent film western star William S. Hart purchased a ranch house in this community in 1921. In 1927 he built a 22-room house on the 265-acre property. When he died, he left the property to Los Angeles County with the stipulation that it would be open to the public at no charge. The house is filled with art of the West, Native American artifacts, and early Hollywood memorabilia. The park also houses a number of animals including a small herd of bison and is open daily. The museum is only open for free guided tours Wednesday through Saturday. The William S. Hart Park and Museum is just down the street from where the farmers' market is held.
Z: But you didn't tell us about Woody Strode.
R: O.K. Woody strode was a famous black athlete who played pro football for the Rams when they were in Cleveland. He also was a professional wrestler. One of his most famous movie roles was as a gladiator who fights Kirk Douglas in Spartacus. He appeared in a number of westerns directed by the legendary John Ford. Some memorable Ford films that featured Strode were The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Sergeant Rutledge, and Two Rode Together. He even had a role as an Ethiopian king in Cecil B. Demille's Ten Commandments.
Z: Woody had quite a colorful career. Speaking of acting, as we departed from Old Town Newhall, we noticed the Canyon Theater Guild's theater across the street from the market. The group has been staging plays in the community for over 35 years. The Canyon Theater Guild's story can be found at http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/sg092200.htm
Old Town Newhall Certified Farmers' Market
Reviewed June 2006