On June 2, the blossoming courtyard next to the Pescadero Country Store will again fill with farm tents laden with the freshest, brightest vegetables in San Mateo County — and smiling shoppers, live music and warm community vibes. To those who know it, the Pescadero Grown! farmers’ market is unlike any other. Just ask a farmer with beloved local organic producer Blue House Farm.
“Pescadero is the smallest market we do, and it feels like the heart of a community,” says Mary Hillemeier, harvest manager for Blue House Farm. “There’s a stronger sense of folks who are there to hang out with each other. The distance feels shorter and the connection feels tighter, more personal.”
That intimate, small-town quality has extended the Pescadero market’s reputation beyond the Coastside region. Last year’s market drew an average of 300 shoppers every Thursday, a new record. This year’s market occurs every Thursday from June 2 to October 27, from 3 to 7 p.m. Puente will raffle off an iPad on opening day.
Hillemeier says she meets market shoppers as far away as San Francisco’s Mission District who ask her about the Pescadero market and say they are heading down here. “I think word is growing,” she says.
This year’s roster of vendors is a Who’s Who of market favorites from years past, along with some exciting newcomers. Blue House Farm is joined by market favorites Fly Girl Farm, Farmageddon, State Street Honey and Left Coast Grassfed. As always, all the delectable edibles are harvested or ranched within about 20 miles of the market itself. Open Eye Creations will display handmade art fashioned from driftwood. And Steadfast Herbs, a new local herb grower, hopes to sell their products as well.
The South Coast’s microclimates nurture a striking diversity of fruits and vegetables. Each week, something new pops out of the soil, and market shoppers bear witness as summer evolves into fall with a changing selection. Lettuces, cauliflower, broccoli, chard and kale are year-round staple crops, but fruits belong to summer. “Strawberries are in full force, and raspberries and blackberries are close behind,” says Hillemeier. Tomatoes, the biggest summer item, will start in early August and go through the rest of the season — including 15 varieties of heirloom tomatoes as well as sweet, dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes.
Everyone has their favorites foods to look out for.
“I personally love the melons from Blue House. Everyone loves Fly Girl tomatoes. I also like duck eggs from Farmageddon,” says Charlea Binford, who wears two hats at Puente: Farmers’ Market Manager and Adult Education Coordinator.
But what many people love most about the market are the things you can’t buy – the small-town connection that draws neighbors together. You see it in the worshipful way children gather around Puente’s Bike Booth to watch a woman named Every repair the broken bikes people bring in on market day. (The Bike Booth will return this year).
You see parents talking to each other while their kids do crafting projects or play bean-bag toss. This year, the Half Moon Bay Library will be at the market every two weeks, reading to children. And twice this summer, on July 7 and September 1, locals are invited to play for 30 minutes at an open mic. Neighbors who never play in public reveal their hidden talents. That’s how the community discovered that a teacher in Puente’s ESL program plays the ukulele and writes her own music and that one of the bartenders at Duarte’s plays the violin and sings. That’s also how the community heard one of the long time participants in Puente’s La Sala program for farmworkers, Miguel, play his guitar and sing. (To sign up for the open mic, contact email@example.com.)
From connection to transformation
This year, Puente is adding a language exchange program to the market. Each week, five English speakers and five Spanish speakers will learn each other’s languages by engaging in freewheeling conversations. The project is an extension of Puente’s hit Cafecito program, a monthly happening during the ESL “school year.”
The conversations don’t just enhance English and Spanish language skills. They make the community a more integrated place. In Pescadero, the language barrier means Latino and Anglo neighbors see each other around town but don’t always say hello. The farmers’ market language exchange will give them plenty to discuss.
“There may be some awkward moments of not knowing what to talk about – that’s inevitable when you’re talking with a stranger in a language that you’re still learning. But there will be plenty of language prompts around. And you can point to the music or the vegetables you’re seeing,” says Binford, whose passion for education gave rise to the idea of helping motivated ESL students continue to learn over the summer. “It leads to friendships, job opportunities, and less fear,” she adds.
Puente needs some English-speaking volunteers for the language exchange.
Please contact Charlea Binford for details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Another unusual feature this year deepens the focus on community health connections. Puente’s community health workers, also known as Promotoras de Salud, will have a booth at the market once a month. They’ll work to break the stereotype that farmers’ markets are for Anglo shoppers only, a stereotype that doesn’t hold up in Pescadero. They will function as Spanish-speaking market guides for fellow Latinos, helping them take advantage of Puente’s Market Match, a discount program for low-income shoppers. They may also offer a recipe or two, and demonstrate ways to use market ingredients in Mexican cooking.
“A lot of foods that are grown here that aren’t part of a traditional Latino diet, like brussels sprouts and kale. But this will be like having a friend there who you can trust to be that extra support in what may be a new environment,” says Molly Wolfes, Puente’s Community Health Coordinator.
The health promoters have become a familiar presence at far-flung farms and ranches, where they make for appointments for Puente’s onsite health clinic. Now locals will know they can visit the farmers’ market on the third week of the month and get connected to health resources. And while they’re there, they’ll learn how to buy and prepare the fresh food available in their community.
“I think it will help create more immersion of the two cultures in this community,” says Wolfes.
That’s quite a feat for a farmers’ market.
Join us at Pescadero Grown! every Thursday from June 2 to October 27, from 3 to 7 p.m., next to the Pescadero Country Store (251 Stage Road).