Land Park farmers market draws hundreds on opening day

Audel Hermosillo brought organic vegetables grown in Salinas to sell at the first farmers market in Land Park on Sunday.
Audel Hermosillo brought organic vegetables grown in Salinas to sell at the first farmers market in Land Park on Sunday. rbyer@sacbee.com

Bolstering Sacramento’s reputation as a farm-to-fork capital, William Land Park on Sunday rolled out the latest of an expanding network of weekend farmers markets, with fresh produce, artisan gourmet foods and live music.

Hundreds flocked to the opening day of the outdoor market-in-the-park to taste, buy and ogle at offerings – ranging from vegan, gluten-free, soy-free edibles to fresh salmon, oranges, squashes, goat cheeses and handmade crafts suitable for holiday shopping. A small number of food trucks were also peddling their specialties.

Nellie Cateriano, mother to Jean Franco, 8, and Jean Paul, 10, stocked up on Fuji apples and oranges for her boys, who, like most kids, tend to eat more fruits than vegetables.

Cateriano, a nursing student at Sacramento City College, said she’s in constant search of healthy foods for her family, especially organic offerings unaltered by pesticides.

“I think this is nice,” she said of the new market, which ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. “I’m here because I am trying to get some good things for the kids to eat.”

For their part, Jean Franco and Jean Paul (whose Italian father gave his boys French names honoring their European forefathers) said they liked that fresh-made tacos were available. Each youngster munched from his own bag of kettle corn.

Cateriano said she typically shops at the much larger farmers market set up every Sunday under the W-X freeway but decided to check out the newest and latest.

The market’s organizers, Don and Marie Hall of the nonprofit BeMoneySmartUSA, which teaches financial and job skills to teens and young adults, said they were pleased with the Land Park market’s first turnout, which they said drew about 200 people hourly.

The Halls coordinate a number of local farmers markets around the region, finding locations and lining up vendors, while also employing teens who work or volunteer at each site. Six of their markets, including those at Sacramento’s midtown, Sunrise Mall, Carmichael Park and historic Folsom, remain open year-round. Three others – in Fair Oaks, at the Sacramento VA Medical Center and the UC Davis Medical Center campus in Sacramento – are seasonal.

The Land Park farmers market, set up near the corner of Freeport Boulevard and Sutterville Road, is BeMoneySmartUSA’s ninth. The Halls said it took nearly a year to gather neighborhood backing and get the city’s approval for the location. They plan to host the market year-round.

Sacramento County boasts at least a dozen other sites that are certified farmers markets, where only agricultural products are sold, directly from farmers to consumers. Some run May through October; others are year-round.

On Sunday, Land Park’s offerings included numerous handmade crafts for the holidays, such as Alice Kiley’s colorfully crocheted, all-cotton faux foods intended for kids’ play-kitchens. Kiley said her handmade goods, which include corn, avocados, mushrooms, breakfasts (complete with fried eggs, toast and bacon) and burgers, sell out quickly.

“Parents say they don’t want to have plastic toys in a play-kitchen,” Kiley said. “They want washable, natural cotton.” Kiley also sells crocheted dolls, animals and monster heads.

Fifth-grader Aurora Warren was quickly drawn to the red, sweet-looking crocheted strawberries. “They are very detailed,” the 10-year-old said, “and you can wash them like real strawberries.”

Among the local vendors Sunday was Charley Cornell, who runs a one-man, goat-farming operation at his 15-acre spread in Garden Valley, near the tiny foothills town of Cool in El Dorado County. Cornell tends a large flock of about 50 goats, and brings his artisan goat cheese – flavored with garlic, dill or cranberries – to various farmers markets.

“I’m way beyond Cool,” he said, pun intended. “I’m living the dream, and I wake up happy.” Cornell said he’s been raising goats for 26 years on a spread he calls Jollity Farm.

Fishmonger Josiah White, 26, hails from Hawaii and imports fresh fish from the Big Island and Alaska, using overnight shipping. Friends and relatives do the fishing, White said, and there are days when he wishes it were the other way around. Despite his “island fever,” White said he enjoys selling salmon and other fish at open-air markets like Land Park’s.

The market’s debut Sunday drew nearby residents, including Karla Fung and Chantel Elder. Usually, they drive to the sprawling farmers market under the W-X freeway, but this week, Elder said, they strolled over from their Hollywood Park neighborhood, because “There’s been a buzz about the new farmers market.”

Call The Bee’s Cynthia H. Craft, (916) 321-1270.

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