July 9, 2011
I AM A FARMERS MARKET AFICIONADO. I have been going to the Marin farmers market Thursdays for 20 years. Going to market is a pilgrimage because it feeds my body and soul.
I love the sounds, colors, textures and energy of the market and of the people who work and shop at the market. I love being immersed in the rhythm of seasons. I have learned to appreciate that it is only possible to purchase things when they are in season. I love discovering new fruits and vegetables at the peak of their perfection. I welcome the challenge and enjoyment of cooking by the calendar.
Over the years the farmers market has changed in scope and breadth. The Thursday morning farmers market at the Marin Civic Center opened in 1983 and the Sunday morning market was added soon after. It was the first certified farmers market in California. A certified farmers market means that farmers bring to market what they directly grow and raise themselves. It epitomizes the concept of buying locally and sustainably, in that there is a direct connection between the farmer and the consumer.
The market is more than just a place to do your shopping; it's also an educational experience. In 2009 the Marin farmers market merged with the Marin Agricultural Institute to form the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM). Its mission is to educate the public about the nutritional and economic benefits of buying locally grown food directly from farmers.
This is done through market tours, and various outreach programs to the general public, local schools and organizations. Marin Master Gardeners also play an active role in the education of the public. Each week you will find Master Gardeners at booths at the Civic Center and Novato markets ready to offer advice and information concerning gardening, pest management and water-wise gardening practices.
There's a market every day of the week in Marin County, except for Monday; residents have no excuse not to do their shopping at one.
Each market has its own "flavor." Arrive at 8 a.m. when the Thursday market at the Civic Center opens and you'll find yourself rubbing shoulders with many of the finest chefs in the Bay Area. The farmers know them and their preferences. T he market is also family-friendly with activities for children, plenty of free samples, and an espresso cart for those of us who are still a bit groggy at that early hour. There is also an opportunity to purchase sweets and baked and prepared foods. Ice cream, gelato and fruit drinks are offered seasonally.
The Friday market in Mill Valley is small but offers quite a variety of prepared foods, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you visit the Thursday market in downtown San Rafael from April to September from 5 to 8 p.m., you will feel as though you have been transported to an international street festival. There is music, cuisine from around the world, and of course a plethora of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers.
Sunday at the Civic Center is large and bustling. It features an aisle dedicated to crafts people along with an abundance of fresh fish and meats. Take a break from your shopping to listen to the live music, and feast on crepes or tortillas, while you enjoy some of finest people-watching in Marin.
Whatever market you visit, remember to come prepared with bags or baskets that can be recycled. Vendors do provide bags, but more and more people are adapting to the new habit of bringing their own. I have noticed a few organized shoppers who bring jars and containers from home and fill them directly with produce once it's been weighed. This eliminates the
need for added bags and provides the added benefit of ease of putting the
produce away when returning home.
Farmers markets offer wonderful opportunities to learn, support local businesses, connect with nature, and make eating healthy easy and incredibly delicious.
GROW YOUR KNOWLEDGE
• Agricultural Institute of Marin — www.agricultural institute.org/index/aboutUs
• For a listing of market locations and times as well as a harvest calendar, go
to the "Grown in Marin" page of the University of California
Agriculture and Natural Resources website —http://groups.ucanr.org/GIM/Farmers_Markets/Local_Farmers_Market_Schedule.htm
• Marin Organic, a cooperative association of Marin County organic producers,
many whom sell at local markets — www.marinorganic.org/about.php —