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April 9, 2013
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Sure sign of spring

It’s spring and the first farmers market of the season is set to open this weekend at the historic North Star House.

Nevada County Certified Growers Market will open the gates from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday beginning this week at 12075 Old Auburn Road, about a half mile south of the Nevada County Fairgrounds on McCourtney Road.

It’s a chance for locavores to buy garden starts, fresh eggs, bread, mushrooms, beef and lamb, olive oil, preserves and locally grown produce as well as valley-grown fruits and vegetables as many as two months before other farmers markets in the county open shop. Last year, opening day brought about 20 vendors, and participants expect a similar turnout this year.

The market gives farmers a spring opportunity to sell their goods, said Deena Miller, co-owner of Sweet Roots Farm, now entering her third season selling at the market.

“This market gives us about 10 markets before other local markets start. They don’t bring in as much as later markets, but now is when any little bit helps and gets us in the market mode. We also have folks coming from warmer climates to bulk up the offerings.

This year, the warm spring has allowed Sweet Roots to have produce available for opening day.

They will sell: salad mix, green garlic, rhubarb, radishes, turnips, spinach, braising mix and many plants to start a spring garden.

Miller will be on hand to give tips for backyard gardeners.

Every year the market attracts a growing number of vendors and customers who like the open-air market set in a park-like setting with the preserved Julia Morgan North Star House as a backdrop. Music and food booths help create a festive, social gathering site where neighbors catch up with neighbors.

The market’s success has grown in recent years, says former market manager Doug Forster.

From 2011 to 2012, the Saturday morning market in Grass Valley increased in total sales and average sales per vendor, Forster said.

In preparation for market, farmers Ken and Aleta Barrett of Starbright Acres Family Farm are busy this week collecting eggs and tending to plant starts and early produce.

“Now is the season for local eggs,” Market President Aleta Barrett said, adding the eggs are also available at Starbright Acre’s farm store and at Natural Valley Health Foods.

Cliff and Marlene Bottenfield will be selling four different varieties of oyster mushrooms, asparagus, salad mix and kale from their Nevada City-based Tumbling Creek Farm.

Gay Columbel, who raises lamb on 200 acres with her husband, Lance, will be at the market on opening day. This is the fourth season for The James Ranch. For 33 years, the couple and its two daughters have made shepherding a way of life and a livelihood.

“We will be offering fresh spring lamb for the season. We timed the harvest of these lambs for this market,” Columbel said.

Columbel’s customers have become friends, and many return weekly for conversation and convenient local food shopping in a park-like setting.

This is Susan Meagher’s fourth year, too. Meagher is the owner of Nana’s Artisan Bakery.

“I think what sets us apart is the diversity of our offerings. We do prioritize local businesses, but if space allows, we accept businesses from other counties, allowing customers more choices,” Meagher said.

She says over the years, the grounds have improved significantly at the North Star House.

Groundskeepers and volunteers have leveled out paths, planted trees, nurtured the landscaping and increased parking.

On opening day, Nana’s Bakery will offer: scones, cinnamon rolls, challah bread, caramel apple muffins, cookies and organic lemonade.

This winter, Meagher tested new gluten-free recipes and will offer gluten-free brownies and gluten-free lemon cake.

Other vendors include: Mama Sattiva Ghee will sell ghee butter, Guzzetti Indian will sell Indian food, Gunderson will sell hats, Johnson Farm will sell produce and eggs, Calolea will sell olive oil, Family Friendly Farms will sell beef and pork, Animal Place Veganic Farm will sell produce, Coffee Run will sell hot coffee, Sweet Farway Craft will sell spoons, Robertson Farm will sell produce, K-9 Kitchen will sell doggie treats, Potting Shed will sell nursery plants, Sierra Rizing Bakery will sell bread and other baked goods, V&M Farm will sell strawberries, Mao Vang will sell produce, Yoon Chao will sell berries, and Smiley Guys will sell prepared foods.

In the coming weeks, Jerry’s Tooling will offer metal working with kids the third Saturday of each month.

Stephanie Cohelan of Garden Girl Home Preserves will return with her line of jams, jellies, sauces and relishes.

This year, Cohelan is experimenting with grains and hopes to offer flours later in the season.

“Most of what I preserve I grow myself, and when I do not grow it myself, I visit one of my neighbors who does. When it comes to what I put in a jar, keeping it local and certified is my goal,” Cohelan said.

Remember, most vendors are equipped to take cash only.

Bring a basket and get to the market early for freshness and the best selection. Both EBT and WIC is acceptable.

In June, University of California Cooperative Extension will offer tastings and recipes at the market.

For information, visit http://thegrowersmarket.com.

Contact freelance writer Laura Brown at laurabrown323@gmail.com or 530-401-4877.


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The Union Updated Apr 12, 2013 01:06PM Published Apr 9, 2013 11:08PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.