The Saturday market is finally open after a very wet winter.

It was a lovely beginning; brimming with anticipation from everyone; vendors and customers. From the looks of things, most were not disappointed.

Janet Ciel

The first week the aisles were filled, many sold out, and there were smiles all around. It’s exciting to have new and different with us this year, as well as our favorite long-time vendors.

This was the first year for Windsor-based Tisza Bistro, and it was a “wow” thing when they began putting out plates of potato pancakes topped with smoked salmon, blueberry pancakes, eggs and bacon, avocado toast, and even a schnitzel and gravy dish. They sold out.

Healdsburg Bagel Company also got wiped out, much to his surprise. Their first market ever, they were a wholesale-only company prior to this appearance. He made sandwiches as well as selling bagels by the piece and the dozen.

The Tamale Factory was another new vendor who did gangbusters. Every bit of the tamale is made from scratch, using locally-sourced ingredients, and made in a traditional way. They were a big hit.

This year’s market was as lush with fruits and veggies as we’ve come to expect. We’re so fortunate to be surrounded by farms. This area teems with growers, who not only sell at the local farmers markets, but they supply hundreds of restaurants throughout the county and beyond. Those who don’t attend farmers markets might not realize how different they are from shopping in a grocery store.

There are the obvious ways, of course; you’re shopping outside, buying directly from the grower or food producer, listening to live music while you shop. It’s a fun experience, not a chore.

But the real difference is the produce. Your local generic grocery store may have some produce grown here in the county, but most of what you’re buying is grown far away: sometimes thousands of miles from us in exotic places like Chile and the Philippines.

Even if you buy organic produce it might be grown in Mexico or somewhere in Asia, where they have different safety practices, so what’s considered organic there may not meet our standards here.

“Big Ag” rules our country, just the way all the big corporations do, and with that comes “perfect” veggies: broccoli heads that are uniform in size; every peach is unblemished and the same shape.

This is not how nature intended our produce to be. But if every apple is exactly the same as the next they fit nicely into the boxes and are easily counted and managed. There’s an assumption that buying fruits and veggies at a farmers market is more expensive than the grocery store.

That may be true in some cases, but in others you may find great bargains because farmers have excess, and you’re buying directly from the grower, not a middleman who needs their cut.

And here’s the biggest difference: everything lasts so much longer! You might buy lettuce at the store and forget to eat it. A week later it’s a slimy mess. But a head of lettuce bought at the market might last as long as three weeks!

It hasn’t been flown in from somewhere, stored in warehouses, trucked to the market and sat on the shelf. It was picked the morning you bought it.

Consider your carbon footprint. Consider our local economy. Consider becoming one of a growing number of local residents who’ve discovered our market really meets a lot of our weekly shopping needs, as well as being a joyful way to shop.

We’re open every Saturday 8:30 a.m. to noon through the end of November in the parking lot behind Bear Republic. And our Tuesday market opens May 28, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Plaza, downtown.

Hope to see you there!

Janet Ciel is the manager of the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market. She can be reached at manager@healdsburgfarmersmarket.org.

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