Nothing says summer like a farmers’ market. Whether you are wandering through the pine trees in Truckee, or hanging out just above the sun-drenched beach in Tahoe City, it’s all about the rows of bright colors and fresh fruits and vegetables that make us think local and healthy. Farmers’ markets have been going on for thousands of years throughout the world, and they have always been that place where people could not only pick up the best of what their community had to offer, but also gather to meet and greet their friends.
In fact, spending an hour at one (or all) of the farmers’ markets around Tahoe and Truckee is a win-win-win situation. First, you support small and local farmers. It’s a challenge making a living on a small farm. Farmers’ markets are an excellent way, and in some cases the only way, for farmers to get their products to the consumer, while avoiding distribution channels that are geared toward providing large quantities of food products to supermarket chains. Second, you support your physical health by eating locally grown and/or organic food. Many food experts say that the closer you are to where your food is grown, the fresher it will be, and the fewer opportunities there will be for contamination. And, finally, spending time at a farmers’ market supports your mental health, as well, because it’s always enjoyable to slowly walk by a sea of colors and smells with other happy people on a beautiful summer day.
“People have an understanding of what is involved in being a small farmer and that they are happy to see us since it is so hard to grow your own in the mountains,” says Camili Miller from Twin Peaks Nursery in Newcastle, who usually sells out of the beautiful peaches and nectarines she brings to the markets every week.
While produce is the mainstay of any Farmers’ Market, one fixture at our mountain markets is the fresh fish brought to the area by the fisherman himself, Brand Little. Little heads out of San Francisco and catches the fish, then after selling some of his catch to wholesalers, he says he brings the best to the eight farmers’ markets that he, or his associates, attends every week. While at first blush, freshly caught fish looks expensive, when you think about the number of hours on the ocean required to catch them, and how delicious the really fresh fish is, the price will start to sound pretty reasonable.
Another advantage of the farmers’ market is you can find the products you can’t find in the supermarket, such as unique cheeses or awesome Indian food, where samples come at you so fast and furious you are close to full before you even start buying.
Long-time Tahoe local Patty Spiller can be found at the markets selling honey for Grass Valley-based McCaughry Farms. She says the honey is raw, not processed like much of what you find in the supermarkets. They collect from more than 800 hives at a variety of different elevations. Spiller says that each elevation produces a different taste of honey, so you can try a few different varieties and come up with what best suits your tastes.
Farmers’ markets not only help small farmers and merchants stay in business, in some cases it was the market itself that started them.
Several years ago, Tahoe cake maker Allison Sayles set up shop at the Tahoe City Farmers’ Market as Sugar Pine Cakery, and sold some of her tasty treats that were only available previously for weddings and catered events. The Cakery’s treats were so popular that when the farmers’ market season ended, her regular customers were pleading for more. So, she opened up a business off the beaten track in Lake Forest that has been successful year-round ever since. But, Sugar Pine Cakery still loves the farmers’ market, where they sell out every week (because we all love our sweets).
The Foothill Farmers Market group based in Auburn holds Farmers’ Markets in the Tahoe/Truckee area every week until October. For details, visit foothillfarmersmarket.com.
Tim Hauserman wrote the guidebook to the Tahoe Rim Trail, and a million years ago wrote his Masters Thesis on “Planning to retain agricultural land in New York State.”
Romano pens book on farming
Up for a drive? Make your farmers’ market experience a destination by heading to the Sierra Valley on Fridays between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. It’s the only on-farm market in California envisioned by and located on Gary Romano’s Sierra Valley Farm in Beckworth. It’s on Highway 23A, about 20 miles north of Sierraville, and a mile south of the Intersection of 23A and Highway 70.
Romano has been a regular at the Tahoe area markets for years and is the author of “Why I Farm: Risking it All for a Life on the Land” recently published by South Lake Tahoe-based Bona Fide Press. The book is a fun look at Romano’s life growing up in an Italian flower farming family in the Bay Area. While he learned to farm the old fashioned way, also known as working your ass off, he also learned to hate the hard work, and went to college and became a recreation planner for many years. But, then he was called back to farming when a family ranch in Sierra Valley came up for sale. Now, he produces a variety of organic produce for sale, and talks with passion about what we need to do to save the small family farm.
8 a.m.-1 p.m. | Truckee River Regional Park (until Oct. 8)
9 a.m.-1 p.m. | Kings Beach State Recreation Area (until Aug. 27)
4-7 p.m. | Tunnel Creek Café, Incline Village
8 a.m.-1 p.m. | Tahoe Lake Elementary School, Tahoe City (until Aug. 22)
8 a.m.-1 p.m. | Commons Beach, Tahoe City (Aug. 29-Sept. 26)
5-8 p.m. | Truckee Thursdays (until Aug. 22)