There are no fat pigs to buy at our two local farmer’s markets, but there’s plenty else to sing about. For nearly 30 years we’ve been blessed with farmers markets showcasing the richness of our agricultural heritage and its continuation. With the end of this year’s Tuesday night market, we want to offer a moment’s praise and appreciation for our farmer’s markets.
Beginning as a modest opportunity for our local farmers to sell their pesticide-free produce, the Tuesday Night market has steadily evolved into a weekly party enjoyed by a large and enthusiastic public. In addition to the ample offerings of vegetables, fruits, and berries, a wide variety of freshly prepared hot foods has made picnic dinner on the Plaza’s grass a regular occasion for many.
Add to that beverages and great live music, and it makes for an entire evening of food and entertainment. Judging from the crowds, Tuesday night’s market is more popular than ever. And yet by the following morning, everything looks back to normal, cleaned-up and ready for business.
It’s worth noting that Sonoma’s Plaza, at eight acres the largest town plaza of its kind in California, began as a gathering place for corralled livestock, embodying the tradition of a “commons” available to all for their use. With the addition of City Hall, it became the literal heart of the city.
That it remains so is invaluable, and there were times when it was threatened. For example, in the 1960s a proposal to place a gasoline filling station in the Northwest quadrant, was, thankfully, rejected. The Tuesday night market embodies The Plaza’s role as a public gathering place, and reinforces the vitality of its meaning to the entire community.
The Friday morning market in the parking lot at Depot Park is a much smaller and less party-like affair, but also very popular. Under the ever watchful eye of Hilda Swarz, who has been devotedly guarding and nurturing the farmer’s markets here for 30 years, the Friday market is almost all about food. The action begins at 9am.
There are no bands, no beverages other than coffee and tea, and only the occasional prepared hot food vendor. The produce is organic or at least pesticide-free, abundant, and so fresh. In addition to the farmers, usually two exceptional bakers hawk their baked goods and loaves. There’s even fish and fresh, organic meat offered, and between the vendors, customers, with lots of friendly chit-chat and catching up. By 1pm it’s all over. Unlike the Tuesday market, the Friday market operates year-round. It’s glorious.
Enjoying some of the finest soil in the world, our local heritage is agricultural and our farmer’s markets carry forward the viability of that heritage. An alternative to store-bought produce that’s traveled from hundreds of miles away and often grown at industrial farms, what we enjoy at our farmers markets is exactly the opposite. Hyper-local, super-fresh, pesticide-free; when it comes to fresh food, it doesn’t get any better. We are so lucky.
Combining the markets with our walkable community is a real plus. Exercise plus wholesome food contribute to good health, both physical and psychological. The bike path leads right to Depot Park, and we encourage everyone to leave their car behind, and walk or bike to either market.