Every Sunday, local farmers set up shop in parking lot 5 of College of the Canyons and eagerly wait for patrons to arrive.
“We’ve been really lucky because Santa Clarita has been a really good market for us,” said Karen Schott, the market’s operations manager, who has been with the market since it opened.
The Santa Clarita Certified Farmers’ Market recently celebrated 25 years of providing Santa Clarita with farm-fresh produce. The market has grown both in customers and diversity. Schott took The Signal on a tour of the market and shared her insights on how the market has changed over time.
“In the beginning, it was really interesting trying to get people interested in all the different ethnic foods and all the different…things that we have to offer,” Schott said. Over time, however, customers began to embrace new flavors and exotic crops.
Schott attributes the change in customers’ willingness to try something new to the increasing popularity of cooking shows and the relationships built between local farmers.
“They’re willing to try new stuff,” Schott said. “They have good long-term relationships with our farmers and they’ll say, ‘Oh, look here, I have some new pea tendrils…’ and customers will try it, and that’s the whole basis of what you want a farmers’ market to be.”
As the market has grown, Schott has seen many vendors come and go. During the tour, Schott ran into two previous vendors who have since moved on to other opportunities. She also spoke with vendors who had been with the market for almost as long as she has.
“I’d say there’s probably six to eight that have been here within the first two years. They’re really in this for the long haul,” said Schott, as she walked down the rows of vendors. Every farmer had a smile on their face and a story behind their produce.
Schott shares her love for the farmers, their diversity and the community that has been fostered in the market.
“I would have to say, what I have found the most fascinating and just so enriching, is to see our first generation immigrants coming to this country and just applying their hard work and their dreams,” Schott said. “They come from all over the world: Asia, Russia, Hungary, Mexico, Argentina.”
In a small parking lot of a local community college, Schott had found a melting pot of hard working farmers with a variety of culture to offer the Santa Clarita community.
“To have them come and seeing what they can bring, and just their cultures and enthusiasm and their passion. Then, to have them develop these relationships with their customers and with us, with our staff and with their fellow farmers, it’s just so fascinating,” Schott said.
How the market works
In a certified farmers’ market, only products that are certifiable by an agricultural commissioner are allowed, meaning every farmer will have a permit which a commissioner will inspect.
The market also has a non certified processed foods section, which includes baked goods, homemade jams and handcrafted probiotics. Santa Clarita market officials require that their vendors make their own goods, meaning the section is limited and further licensed, according to Schott.
Often the market is busy on Saturdays, but Schott admitted that, sometimes, residents are not aware the market even takes place.
“That happens all the time. Every day we have people say, ‘I didn’t know about the market and they’ve been living here all this time,’”said Schott, adding that if it wasn’t for the farmers’ market, some of the vendors would have gone out of business due to lack of outlets.
“If anybody has been considering going to the farmers’ market, or has ever thought about going to the farmers’ market, they should try to make it out over in the next 60 days,” Schott said. “To try the freshness, to try the flavors and to see the old-fashioned variety that you can’t get in a supermarket. This is like our prime season, now through October.”
The Santa Clarita Certified Local Farmers’ Market takes place every Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., with a soft opening at 8 a.m. Vendors are set up in parking lot 5 of the College of the Canyons Valencia campus.