Farmer Photo Op

As I mentioned earlier this week, my favorite farmers market is the Vista Farmers Market. Over the past few years I’ve gotten to know a few of the farmers pretty well.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say it again: it’s SO important to get to know the grower – it’s one of the coolest things about shopping at a farmers market. Most farmers are really excited to share what they know about their product and I’ve been introduced to so many great flavors that I never would have tried had it not been for these guys and gals.  I’ve also been given countless ingredients with which to experiment. (30 lbs of figs anyone?)

And most importantly, I’ve made connections within my community which, I think, has made me a better person.  It’s a lot easier to get angry, spread hate or ignore someone you don’t know.  I refrained from flipping off the congenitally slow driver of the beat up van when I realized he sells the best peaches at the market.  Good food can make up for a lot of shortcomings….

Boston John

John was one of the first vendors I began chatting with, which wasn’t hard because he’s also one of the loudest vendors at the market.  He hocks his hummus, feta, flatbread and amazing dips much like a carney worker, “2 fa 5 dallors,” in his thick Boston accent.  We initially bonded over my love of Red Sox baseball and his layer dip – three levels of crumbled feta, pesto and roasted red peppers.  Later, I began buying a container of Feta cheese a week.  I quickly became known as “Feta Girl” and now if I try to sneak by his booth without buying my weekly supply I’m called out like politician with dirty cell phone pictures.  And while he doesn’t actually make the stuff he sells, he sure knows his ingredients and he definitely know how to sell it!  For more information about his stuff, visit the Baba Foods website.


Javier and his tomatoes

Javier is a hipster-farmer-construction worker (although he’d probably kill me if I ever described him that way to his face,) who keeps me in tomatoes year-round.  Like John, we bonded over Boston sports, (he’s a HUGE Patriots fan and I’m a HUGE Tom Brady fan.)  He’s also got some of the best blueberries at the market.  The best thing about Javier is his low-key demeanor.  He’s encouraged me to try squash blossoms and fava beans while giving me a few pointers on how to prepare them, (hint: lightly saute them both.)  Plus, I usually get a big discount on my tomatoes.  I KNOW 2lbs. costs way more than $2.50 in the dead of winter.  Every once in a while we actually get a chance to chat, which is how I found out that his wife (pictured in the background) is a nurse who usually works nights, and he’s a construction worker during the week.


Mark, AKA the "Fig Guy"

Oh Mark, Mark, Mark.  Where do I start?  Mark is probably one of my favorite growers at the market.  Even though most of what he sells is the same stuff I can get in my backyard, I still stop by his space each week.  I met him almost two years ago during fig season on a rare occasion when Joel and Madison were shopping with me.  He gave us each a Mission Fig to sample, (it was the first time any of us had had a fig that wasn’t in a Newton,) and we were hooked.  It was then that I noticed that he also sells macadamia nuts and fresh eggs – two things that don’t grow in my backyard.  Last year he handed me a 30lb flat of VERY ripe figs (free of charge!) and told me to go experiment.  The only thing he wanted in return was a sample of what I concocted.  I spent all of the next day making three types of fig bars with about as much joy as I had ever had in a kitchen.  Here is his macadamia nut website.

The Good For You Gourment Lady

I first became aware of Sally while editing the monthly farmers market newsletter.  One of the contributors wrote a profile about the organic heirloom beans, rice, and exotic grains she sells.  But it wasn’t until the market reorganized and I noticed her booth for the first time that I stopped to chat with her.  Very soft-spoken and shy, Sally is more comfortable chatting about her black japonica rice, Bolivian quinoa and Spanish lentils than she is about herself.  She sources her products from all over the world – which saves me the time of driving all over the county to find organic wild rice, lima beans and buckwheat.  The thing I love the most about her packaging is the little slip of paper included in each bag of grains: it includes one or two ways to prepare her grains and she is always on the lookout for new recipes.


Aussie Sparkling Grapes

Aussie Sparkling Grapes

Every Saturday the “Aussie Grape Guy” as I like to call him stands in front of his booth handing out samples of his sparkling grape juice.  He never fails to shout out a friendly, “hello” and I love stopping to chat with him.  I almost always stop for a sample even though I’ve tried every variety of his juices.  My favorite is the sparkling Muscat – a super-sweet white non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice.  I like to keep one or two bottles in my pantry for a few reasons: 1) they mix REALLY well with vodka and, 2)  I usually break out a bottle of the “kid champagne” when Madison has friends over to visit.  He also sells Verjuice, a juice made from pressing unripe grapes and mixing them with fresh herbs.  It makes a great salad dressing and not-so-great substitute for Pernod.


Bernice and her peas

I’ve only recently met Bernice, but the quality of her produce makes me wonder why I haven’t stopped at her stand before.  It was her perfect English Peas that drew me in and now I buy my broccoli, squash, beans and cucumbers from her.  Like Sally, she’d much rather talk about her produce than herself.  In fact, just getting a picture of her was tough!  My friends Bragg and Edward have declared her, “Our favorite farmer,” and I love the fact that she brings her two (very) young kids to the market.  They usually play quietly on a blanket behind the produce tables, but occasionally her older daughter (who really can’t be more than four-years old) will help count back change.


2 comments on “Farmer Photo Op

  1. Ed
    June 9, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    Yay! Bernice made it! She has our favorite booth!

  2. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide
    June 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    What a great round up. How cool to focus on your favorite vendors. So glad it’s farmers market season.

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