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Springtime means fresh produce at local farmers markets

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Despite uncooperative weather that pushed the growing season to a late start, local farmers markets are getting ready to open throughout the city once again.

“We’re starting the (growing) season a little late this year, but the weather is warming up, and we’re going to have a lot of wonderful produce to offer,” said Renae Best, assistant market coordinator for Sacramento Certified Farmers Markets.

Of the 12 farmers markets in Sacramento, three are open year-round. Six are slated to open the first week in May and the others will open in June, Best said Thursday.

Joany Titherington, operator of the Oak Park Farmers’ Market in McClatchy Park, said there are a lot of “new and exciting things” happening at the market this year.

“We’ve just had some new site improvements, thanks to the city,” Titherington said Thursday. “We now have wider walkways and new benches and electricity and water for the vendors. It’s going to be really nice this year.”

Vendors will be able to plug into an underground system for electricity to power electric scales and other equipment, she said.

The city’s farmers markets are generally open May through September or October, and at the peak of the season – late July to August, Titherington said – market vendors have the greatest variety of fruits and vegetables to offer.

“We may start with some of the stone fruits – peaches, plums and apricots – through the latter part of May and June,” Titherington said, “then grapes start coming, and then melons in July and August and pears, too. The market is full with a variety of products.”

Currently the Oak Park Farmers’ Market is only open Saturdays, but Titherington said more site improvements are expected in 2013 that will include permanent coverage – large awnings to provide cover from the elements – that will allow the market to operate year-round.

Only California-grown agricultural products may be sold in certified farmers markets, according to the California Federation of Certified Farmers’ Markets website, and all of the products must be grown by the farmer selling them.

Sacramento’s farmers markets usually have around 15 to 20 vendors at the beginning of the season, Best said, and grow to host as many as 45 vendors at the larger markets at the peak of season.

“We have our core growers that attend almost all of the markets,” Best said, “and we have some that go to just one market a week, depending on what fits their schedule.”

“Our core group – about a dozen growers – have been with us (at the markets) since day one, 30 years ago. They’ve really made a good business from selling directly to their customers,” she said.

The Certified Farmers’ Market website offers shopping tips for making the most of a trip to the market, including what to be sure to bring (shopping bags for purchases and fanny packs for keys and wallet), and how to bargain with vendors (hint: only on larger buys, not on small amounts).

Best said that the farmers markets offer an opportunity for people to meet the folks who grow their food and to ask questions about where the food comes from, or to let the farmers know what variety of produce they’d like to see.

“It’s all about the interaction between people,” Best said. “It is a benefit for everyone. It works out great every year.”

Here is a list of local farmers markets, including scheduled days and times:

View Farmer’s markets in Sacramento in a larger map

Country Club Plaza Market
Country Club Plaza, Watt and El Camino avenues
Saturdays, 8 a.m. – noon

Sacramento Central Market
Eighth and W streets under Highway 50/80
Sundays, 8 a.m. – noon

Sacramento Florin Market
Sears parking lot at Florin Road and 65th Street
Thursdays, 8 a.m. – noon

Fremont Park Market
Fremont Park, 16th and P streets
Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Roosevelt Park Market
Roosevelt Park, Ninth and P streets
Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Chavez Plaza Market
Cesar Chavez Plaza – 10th and J streets
Wednesdays, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Capitol Mall Market
Sixth Street and Capitol Mall, along the street
Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

East End State Capitol Park Market
15th and L streets
Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Oak Park Farmers’ Market
McClatchy Park, 35th Street and Fifth Ave
Saturdays, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Sacramento Kaiser Market
Cottage Way and Morse Avenue
Fridays, 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Del Paso Heights Market
Norwood Avenue and Silver Eagle Road
Saturdays, 7 a.m. – noon

Natomas Market
Inderkum High School parking lot, 2500 New Market Dr.
Saturdays, 9 a.m. – noon

Click HERE to find maps of local farmers markets.

Meliss Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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