The pitched tents, fresh produce and crowds of people that line Union Street in downtown Nevada City are celebrating another one of the county’s homegrown establishments — the Nevada City Farmers Market.
The market runs from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. from June 15 to Nov. 23; it focuses on local produce, limiting vendors to a 75-mile radius of Nevada City, and also requires producers to include a written paragraph on their farming philosophy.
“We choose producers in part on their commitment to sustainable agriculture because we should be caring for the land and the quality of the food we eat,” said Jane Sangwine-Yager, volunteer and board secretary.
Alan Haight, owner of Riverhill Farm in Nevada City, said he appreciates the ability to contribute to his local community through the market.
“Nevada City is our hometown, my kids have gone through school here, and we patronize other local businesses and the library,” he said. “For us, going to the Nevada City market is like giving back to our own community — the people who have loaned us books buy our produce at restaurants. It’s a really great community scene.”
Haight also said the market is the most lucrative out of those he has participated in.
“People really come to the market to shop and buy produce, so of all the markets we’ve ever done, it’s by far the best as far as supporting our farm and income,” he said. “The market has a really strong local identity. Most of the farmers come from within the area or nearby, depending on the product they sell, and it’s generated a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the patrons. People are able to get produce that’s just been picked the day before. It’s really fresh with sometimes unusual or unique varieties.”
Riverhill Farm contributes about 45 different varieties of fruits and vegetables with about 18 different crops at one point in the season, Haight said.
“From arugula to zucchini, it’s a real mix,” he said. “We often have wet springs that delay planting and maturity of crops, but (the market) goes to the weekend before Thanksgiving, which means over a 24-week period, we’re taking at least one, as many as three vehicles of produce to the market, and come home empty.”
Haight, who opened Riverhill in 2001, said the local food movement first boomed in 2006.
“In 2001 it wasn’t really like that,” he said. “I didn’t know how much I should grow because I didn’t know how much local demand there was.”
The farm has since increased nearly five-fold, from 2 1/2 acres to 11, which is due to the success at the farmers market as well as coordination with BriarPatch market, Haight said.
The timing of the local food movement can be attributed to attention on the industrial food system and the “shop local” movement, he said.
“It caused people to be more interested in not just in local food, but the local economy,” Haight said.
“People come to the market not just because of the food, but the atmosphere and aesthetic of seeing all that lovely produce piling up, so colorful and fragrant.”
About 15 volunteers help set up and take down the tables, chairs and booths, rather than reserve that task to the vendors.
“I think it makes our vendors especially appreciative,” Sangwine-Yager said.
The market’s 24-week duration also allows a variety of produce and the ability for people to craft a locally sourced Thanksgiving Day meal.
“This year, of course, has just been amazing because the spring was so warm,” Sangwine-Yager said. “Often in cold years at the beginning of the market, the produce display isn’t particularly large. This year is fantastic.”
The idea for the market originated from former councilwoman Reinette Senum and local vendor Angie Tomey, who owns Little Boy Flowers, Sangwine-Yager said.
The Nevada City Farmers Market not only focuses on food, but entertainment as well, with live music each week performed in Robinson Plaza, at the end of Commercial Street.
Volunteer Mary Ekiss said the market brings the community together, citing one annual visitor and her friend who attended last Saturday’s event.
“The entire reason they choose Nevada City Farmers Market is the way it envelops the entire community,” Ekiss said. “She said, ‘I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.’”
“A lot (of markets) are all about the food,” Ekiss said. “The beauty of the Nevada City Farmers Market and the reason it is so near and dear to our hearts is the community aspect that is added to that. At the market you see your neighbors and friends and it’s a celebration of food.”
One side of the market is dedicated to the farmers and producers, and the other side has fresh food, breakfast foods, coffee and artists.
This year’s market also features an eight-week tasting booth with vegetables, meat and other foods, including recipes.
“It allows shoppers to say, ‘Wow. I’ve never tried that. That’s delicious,’ and go purchase it and make something with it,” Ekiss said.
This year’s board provided less outreach than previous years, but continued to have a successful crowd of visitors, Ekiss said, which reflects the market’s established position in the community.
“It’s an established Nevada City Saturday morning tradition,” she said. “It’s exciting. We love the market.”
For information and to sign up for the newsletter, visit http://www.ncfarmersmarket.org/.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.