Holy Kale! What a set-up!
Gualala farmers market opens for 2016*
warning: do not attempt to eat some photos below*
(blogpost #4, 05.28.16, gualala)
While we see our neighbors and they see each other along the way, each week, each day, here and there, the opening of the Gualala farmers market for the 2016 season was a reunion.
Colorful tables, festive atmosphere and familiarity that could be seen in greetings or heard in chit-chat throughout the small grass covered area set the tempo for our holiday weekend.
Familiarity was seen not only in the faces of the vendors and the shoppers but also in the offerings along the dozen or so tables set up in an informal square.
A gathering space to eat or listen to music from Lawrence White and Jennifer Rodenbach, or just sit and catch up. Music blended with the sounds of the place where we live on the Mendonoma coast. Like everything we do up here, the duet seemed to play their music gently with respect to our natural landscape.
All through the market folks were tearing off hunks of bread, balancing plates of warm just-prepared food or picking at the fresh muffin in a paper bag that won’t make it home (for those lucky enough to have come early). Engaged in the kind of conversations that happen spontaneously.
Hellos, how-are-you’s, compliments and questions of interest were not limited to people who know each other or even recognize each other. We sometimes forget names more than faces up here. Our forgetfulness is forgiven, smiled at.
At other markets I have visited in bigger cities the names of people I would see even as a regular shopper are generic. The bread lady. The olive oil guy. That chard woman. The kale kid. The coffee dude. The couple that has the sprouts. Here, the names are names , to mention a few, Katie, John, Mike, Dennis, Zoe, Matt, Christopher, Astrid, Donna, Allen, Mike etc.
Whipped cream, organic, is seen on chins and noses, crumbs on cheeks. Some people are quiet, their breathing steady and eyes closed as if they were at an appointment in nature’s spa. It seems, everyone is smiling either broadly or mimicking Mona Lisa.
The ocean exhales and inhales around people under a sky, almost cloudless. Waves are frisky. Cars in a less than perfect line are parked on the shoulders of the road where there is space. Passengers standing outside to glimpse the whales migrating north. Every so often, a stream of vertical air bubbles shoots up to the sky.
Here, at the market, within minutes, newcomers, visitors or passersby all blend into one mood. Faces of the Gualala farmers market. Each one brings or is swept in by generosity, kindness and a sense of being, of calm, that is contagious here.
There is traffic today. About six cars moving slowly to let pedestrians cross the road in the center of our downtown where there is no traffic light.
Offerings are plentiful. From the ground. From the sea. From the heart. From home kitchens and portable kitchens. Everything works together to make the market manageable with choices that are not overwhelming but still have to be made or given into. Don’t think too long, that little gem lettuce may be gone.
We are present here. Our questions are not bigger than the moment. Which of Katie’s breads do I get? Which of Astrid’s tarts? Bonanno’s oils? The artichoke focaccia or the tomato and cheese?
Aromas of prepared food seem to be spaced by bunches of greens and flowers.
For those missing Bones, Mike Thomas is here, stirring his pots on the opposite side of the space from Gavin and Autumn as they prepare their plates at Dos Tacos.
Along, another side, Astrid working magic between filling as much as thirty orders of waffles and strawberries with cream and slicing chocolate cake or packaging tarts.
Katie and Dennis, Katie being synonymous with bread, of Roseman Creek Ranch is on the opposite side quickly going through the remainder of the hundred loaves of bread they baked and delivered over the past few days for their CSA and this market.
While they set up, Katie is arranging a bouquet of flowers, for sale, from her garden. I don’t think I have ever seen Katie without a smile on her face,
Cookies fill cookie jars. Bunches of kale, mustard greens, lettuces, chard and spinach fill baskets next to bowls of potatoes, onions and this week, fava beans.
Everything while just harvested for today has been nurtured for months from farms including Oz, Westside, Bishop and Northridge. Allen, next to Astrid carefully cuts fresh shoots, maybe cutting one or two at a time.
Newcomers, Karen Scott, Sheri Kirby and Erin Karnes of Ridge Top farm are selling tomato plants, limes and meyer lemons. Sebastiani has their hen house eggs.
Gualala Seaweed has their specialty assortment.
When it comes to olive oil, you can count on John Bonanno to have his line of favorites and his new specialty, this week, rosemary garlic and basil.
And coffee, of course, our local fave!
Calorie free options are available. Indulge.
Bob Gardiner’s flavors seem to pop right out of their jars.
Don’t expect a market filled with dozens of varieties of one thing or numerous specialty items or tables and tables with similar items. What you can expect is a truly local market that is built, grown, delivered and served by farmers, bakers and makers limited to our own stretch of locality. On the ridge, up the road, over that way or north in the next town.
The hard work by our marketers never shows in their moods. They grow, they package, they harvest and gather. They prepare for market. They transport. They hand draw signs and stock plates and bags. They do everything to provide an experience that is not felt in most places. They show gratitude for their customers whether it be a one time visitor or a weekly shopper. This is our community.
Donna Bishop founded the market fifteen years ago and still runs it. When I asked her why it started later this year, she said, “The weather wasn’t just right over the past two weekends. I could feel it in here,” she said, as she patted a gentle open fist against her chest. She was right!
Donna is tireless as she checks all the components of the market, all the preparation and management. She maintains watch over the licenses and regulations to make our market certified.
The one thing missing from the market is cheese but good suppliers are too far away and freshness is key to this market which Bishop will not compromise on.
The costs are set for our community. The passion is free. So are the hugs that Jann Littleton doles out at her small table in the corner.
Zoe, daughter or Ruena Horn who owns Westside is just back from a semester at Northeastern and is thrilled to be back surrounded by real fruit and vegetables which she says is not very good in Boston.
The market is seasonal open at 9:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. Get there early for limited selections. Eat from our market and you will be taking in the nutrients that make where we live, magical.
As you leave, stop by Jann Littleton for your heart and hug!