Farmers Markets popular even in winter

Even in the wintertime, fruits and vegetables are plentiful at area farmers markets.

Saturday morning, hundreds swarmed the farmers market behind Country Club Plaza in Sacramento to scoop up oranges, squash and root vegetables such as carrots. Though fewer people showed up compared with summertime, the winter market offered a variety of seasonal crops.

“It’s possible to eat locally. You just have to be able to eat with the seasons,” said Dan Best, coordinator for the Certified Farmers Markets of Sacramento County.

Best organizes many of the region’s farmers markets, including at Country Club Plaza and Cesar Chavez Plaza in the summer.

At the Hearty Fork Farm booth Saturday, farmer Jason Cuff and wife Catherine Oh hawked carrots, beets and pumpkins. Their colorful display included neatly placed baskets.

“Right now, the focus is leafy greens and root vegetables,” said Cuff, who co-owns the farm in Winters. “My best seller today is carrots. Winter makes them a lot sweeter.”

Partners Lynda Austin, 70, and Lew Goldstein, 66, were on a mission. The couple power-shopped their way through the 17 different vendors, picking up apples and various vegetables.

For Austin, shopping at farmers markets has long been a cornerstone of her life, but Goldstein only recently became a convert.

“I’m a supermarket guy,” said Goldstein, right after stuffing a $4 carton of eggs in his reusable shopping bag. “I learned from her about the fruits and vegetables at the farmers market. They’re good and tasty.”

Austin said she comes every week to the market, spending about $60.

“I just love it,” the Loomis native said. “I’ve been going to farmers markets for 35 years.”

Nearby, Jim Brenner of Newcastle was doing brisk business selling mandarin oranges and kiwis. Close to noon, when the market closes, Brenner had only two 10-pound bags ($12 each) of the famously sweet mandarins on his table.

“The mandarins have two to three weeks before we’re done with the season,” he said.

Danielle Best, daughter of Dan Best, is the on-site manager at Country Club Plaza.

Farmers markets are heavily regulated to make sure consumers are getting products grown by the farmers who are selling them, she said.

For example, merchants are required to obtain a permit from their home county.

State worker Beth Marshall visits the Country Club market year-round to load up on seasonal fruits and vegetables. On Saturday, she left with a bag of squash and persimmons.

“I like to know my money is going to somebody’s pocket and not a big corporation,” Marshall said.

Sacramentans are a lucky bunch when it comes to year-round availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, said Dan Best.

The capital city’s central location gives residents easy access to farmers from various counties.

“All the counties have different seasons,” Dan Best said. “When it comes to farm to fork, we’re in the center.”


In-season fruits: Apples, grapefruit, kiwis, mandarin oranges, navel oranges

In-season vegetables: Beets, broccoli, carrots, pumpkins, squash