Getting a taste of local produce through farmer’s markets

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Photo by Sruthi Medepalli

Campbell Farmer’s Market

Sruthi Medepalli

Bustling booths of locally harvested produce, wafting floral scents and lucrative offers of just-baked bread and crepes, farmers markets are a vital source of delight and ethically-sourced options for many Santa Clara residents. The county has fostered over 30 locations, usually open on at least one weekend morning and each consisting of various specialties from vendors across the Bay Area.  

California’s vibrant agricultural industry and fertile soil has long been a source of fresh food nationwide, being a key contributor to crops such as milk, nuts and grapes. Yet, farmer’s markets work on a smaller scale, providing the same produce from less popular farms to local consumers. They’ve become vital for small businesses seeking a large local customer base and residents eager for organic produce in an increasingly unsustainable world. 

“It’s great when people come out to farmers markets because you support your local farmers, and you get to help your people out instead of the big corporations,” said Liz Dawson, an employee at Winter’s Fruit Tree, which offers regional fruits and nut products.

In an economic sense, these markets provide an easy source of income for small businesses, forgoing expensive shipping and packaging costs. Farmers often attend up to 50 markets a week, transporting goods on trucks, and  stopping at various locations. Since farmer’s markets are traditionally only open one or two days a week, the variability in the days they are open makes it much easier for businesses to plan an efficient weekly route. 

Entering the Campbell Farmers Market, hosted in downtown Campbell on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., one finds themselves ensconced in live music, constantly buzzing crowds and an array of vendors offering samples for products ranging from jewelry and homemade beeswax soaps to fresh seasonal fruit and pumpkin beignets. The Campbell market is one of the most abundant of the Santa Clara locations, and it attracts small businesses from all over the state. 

“It’s just really fun when you meet tourists from different areas, and they’re really surprised by how many fruit and food options we have as opposed to other, more limited markets.” Dawson said.

A delightful twist on the more traditional markets, Campbell Farmers Market spans the entirety of the downtown area and includes products besides just fruits and vegetables. Whether it be potstickers and scallion pancakes, the earthy notes of Oaxacan cuisine or a comforting baked potato and corn, there’s something for everybody. Variety grows as one walks down the road, with a small nook hosting booths that sell jewelry, hats, bags and natural medicines — all handmade and well-loved. Specialties include Beckmann’s Bakery, a family bakery hosted out of Santa Cruz, boasting autumn pies, such as boysenberry and pecan, along with their classic granola and banana bread. More than anything, a sense of community flourishes in the environment, garnering trust in shoppers and providing reassurance for vendors.

“I really like getting to know people week after week,” said Melissa McGranahan, a baker at Beckmann’s Bakery. “The regulars come and always buy the same thing, and we talk about vacations they’ve been on and what their kids are doing — it’s been a really fun way to connect with people.”

The assortment of farmer’s markets in Santa Clara County also often use local school’s parking lots or playgrounds to set up shop, in contrast to the one-street design of the Campbell market. However, the warmth of supporting local businesses remains constant from location to location, and farmers still show the same appreciation for customers.