Farmers Market kicks off season today |

Farmers Market kicks off season today

Growers from Okie Dokie Farm in Grass Valley show off their latest batch of carrots at last year’s farmers market. This year’s market season begins today in Grass Valley.
Submitted to The Union
At last year’s market, a mother and her child stand near the certified organic veggie starts grown by Starbright Acres Family Farm. This year the farm will feature a much larger selection due to the growing popularity of home gardens.
Submitted to The Union
A customer buys plums at the Ponce Farm booth at last year’s farmers market.
Submitted to The Union
A sampling of the bounty featured at the Grass Valley Farmers Market.
Submitted to The Union



Where: In front of Kmart in the McKnight Crossing Shopping Center, 151 W. McKnight Way

When: Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today through Nov. 20.


Where: Raley’s parking lot in the Pine Creek Shopping Center, 692 Freeman Lane, Grass Valley

When: Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 20 through Sept. 28.


Where: Mill Street, downtown Grass Valley.

When: Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. May 6 through June 17, then Aug. 5 through 26.


Where: Mill Street, downtown Grass Valley.

When: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 24 through July 29.

The first Grass Valley Farmers Market of the season is always like coming home after being gone for a very long time, said Aleta Barrett, who owns Starbright Acres Family Farm in Grass Valley with her husband, Ken.

“The opening market is always super exciting,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to seeing some of our longtime customers.”

Barrett is one of roughly 25 vendors who will be at the first Grass Valley Farmers Market of the season, set from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today in front of Kmart in the McKnight Crossing Shopping Center in Grass Valley, 151 W. McKnight Way. The market will continue every Saturday through Nov. 20.

A nonprofit in existence since 1980 and originally coined, “The Growers’ Market,” the ensemble moved last year from the historic North Star House to its current location, where visibility, parking and general accessibility are much improved. Despite the constraints of COVID-19, many vendors said they saw a rise in sales — and foot traffic — after moving to the new spot last season.

“Last year was a big learning curve for us when it came to COVID-19 protocols,” said Monica Keller, a 10-year Farmers Market board member and co-owner of Calolea Olive Oil. “But now we know how to set up booths and safely interact with customers. We follow CDC guidelines.”

Last year, growers weren’t adversely impacted by the pandemic, added Keller, but artists, crafts people and those selling hot food took a hit. Because they weren’t deemed essential, they were not allowed to set up booths. Tastings, food samples, live music and children’s events were canceled as well.

But this year, they’re back.

With more vendors expected to join the market as the season progresses, today’s include many local and small California farms, craft artisans and specialty food businesses. Certified organic, pesticide-free, and non-GMO produce is available along with an assortment of baked goods, fresh fish, local olive oil, a wide selection of gourmet cheeses, heirloom sourdough bread, fresh almond milk, pasture raised eggs, grass-fed meats, micro-greens, and more. The market is always open to more farms, artists and small businesses, as well, said Keller.

With the pandemic came a marked rise in home gardens, said Aleta Barrett of Starbright Acres.

“We met a lot of people who were starting their own gardens for the very first time,” she said. “Last year, we sold a lot more garden starts than usual and actually ran out of some — we were unprepared. This year we’re ready — we planted way, way more starts, including tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, broccoli, lettuce and flowers.”

In addition to the main Saturday market in front of Kmart, the nonprofit organization will be hosting three additional weekly markets this season.


The Tuesday market will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 20 through Sept. 28 in the Raley’s parking lot at the Pine Creek Shopping Center, 692 Freeman Lane, Grass Valley. The market has been hosted on Tuesday mornings in this location for several years and continues to expand with new vendors. Grilled kebabs, fresh donuts, local produce, and close proximity to a grocery store are major draws for this weekly market.


In collaboration with the Grass Valley Downtown Association, an evening Thursday Downtown Farmers Market will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. May 6 through June 17, and Aug. 5 through 26 on Mill Street in downtown Grass Valley. The Downtown Farmers Market is a great way to support Main Street businesses while also supporting small farmers, said organizers.


On June 24, the popular Thursday Night Market will also return to Grass Valley. In addition to farmers, this larger downtown “festival” will host an array of local crafters and live music from 6 to 9 p.m. The night market will continue every week through the end of July, and is popular with out-of-towners.

All markets will follow regulations outlined by the Nevada County Department of Environmental Health and the California Department of Public Health during the 2021 season. Hand-washing stations will be available on site and the vendors will continue with safe cash and produce handling procedures. Social distancing is required and masks need to be worn by all patrons and vendors per licensing and permit mandates.

With the devastating blow of a pandemic on the entire population, Barrett said she is sensing an even stronger sense of camaraderie among growers and customers alike.

“People seem to have pulled together to get through these tough times,” she added. “The community seems even more committed to supporting our local food network and ensuring access to quality food.”

Jade Benetatos, the farmers market manager, is optimistic as well, and sees collaboration with nearby businesses as a win-win.

“Attending the Downtown Farmers Market is a great way to bring traffic to our local retail stores and support small farmers — simultaneously,” she said. “We’re ready for another exciting and successful market season. We encourage everyone to support small California farmers, local artisans, and this nonprofit organization that has been a backbone of our community for over 40 years.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, you can email her at


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