“I'd be lost without this place. I shop here every week, and I'm able to get everything I need here,” says Santa Clara Farmers' Market regular Cheryl E., preferring not to use her last name. She was doing her weekly shopping at the block–long market, located on Jackson Street between Homestead Road and Benton Street and open year–round, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Shoppers can buy California–grown fruit, vegetables and flowers; locally–prepared, ready–to–eat food; and handmade items that vary from week to week from about 40 vendors and artisans.
“All the produce is certified by the Department of Agriculture and must be sold by the actual farmers or their family members or employees,” says Ken Sinclair, the Santa Clara market manager for the Urban Village Farmers' Market Association.
“Virtually all the produce here is organic,” says Sinclair. “Not everything is certified organic. It's a long expensive process to get certified. But all the growers use organic methods. It's one of the requirements to be an Urban Village seller.”
Even the pet treats are organic. Pet owners can buy homemade, organic–even vegetarian– kitty and dog treats from vendors Robin and Gordon Sparks, whose pet niche business is Romie's Choice and Cat Walk Galaxy (www.catwalkgalaxy.com). The Sparks also make cat teaser toys, testing their designs on their own three cats. Everything is made in Santa Clara, where the Sparks live.
Shopper Cheryl buys organic coffee at the Cosmic Coffee Company and bakery goods at the Imagine It Bakery. The young business (www.imagineitbakery.com) is a specialty coffee roasting company combined with an allergy–friendly bakery that operates out of a dedicated gluten, egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut, soy and sesame seed–free commercial kitchen in Santa Clara.
“My husband's not gluten free, but he loves [the bakery goods],” says Cheryl. “These products are like a 10 on a one to 10 scale.”
Last on Cheryl's shopping list were fresh flowers from Salinas Valley Nursery growers Yuji and Akiko Onitsuka, who sell their seasonal flowers exclusively at the Santa Clara market. Bulb flowers such as tulips, irises and lilies are blooming now. Sunflowers were five for $4.
“I hope more and more people find this market. I want to support the Santa Clara area. This is where I live,” says Cheryl, slowly making her way towards the flower stall at the end of the block.
The Santa Clara Farmers' Market, established in 2001, is part of the Urban Village Farmers' Market Association (www.urbanvillageonline.com), a non–profit Mutual Benefit Corporation formed in 1997 to bring together local farmers, food vendors and communities.