Just about every Saturday for the last several years, Chris Barreca can be found at the Old Town Newhall Farmer’s Market to shop for the week.
On this day, he takes a break to enjoy chips, fresh guacamole, and just-squeezed herb cucumber lemonade with a friend before heading home to unload some of his culinary treasures, which range from produce to meats and everything in between.
“I buy olive oil by the gallon. It’s bright green and incredibly good,” Barreca said. “My wife is crazy about baby spinach. She’ll make an omelet with it or add to bone broth I get from here for a two-minute soup.”
Patti Wood of Valencia is a fan of the Ventura County Certified Farmer’s Market held each Sunday at College of the Canyons.
She’s been a regular for years and is looking forward to the bounty that spring and summer promises. “I love all the fresh veggies. I’m excited about the zucchinis and squashes coming soon,” Woods said.
But it’s not just the food that keeps Woods coming back.
“The vendors have become like family,” she said. “I really enjoy talking with them.”
An Interactive Experience
The feeling is mutual. Fred Elliott of F & F Farms offers several varieties of mushrooms such as shiitake and oyster, as well as avocados and salad greens that are grown on his property in Moorpark.
“Being interactive with customers is one of the reasons I love doing this,” Elliott said. “I enjoy talking to people and educating them. We only sell what we grow, so we really know our products.”
For example, Elliott suggests dandelion greens as a great cleansing ingredient, while sorrel can do double duty as a salad component or lemony accent in soup or classic French sauces.
F & F Farms is one of 45 vendors that regularly sells at the Sunday market at COC.
There are jewel-like raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries beckoning for attention amidst the smell of kettle corn popping. Bottles of fresh-pressed juices on ice and probiotic hot sauce on display between meat and sausage vendors.
Just a short walk down from F & F and you’ll find Shepherd’s Farms Eggs, which offers a colorful array of eggs from $6 to $9 a dozen depending on size.
All the eggs come from pasture-raised hens that are truly free range, able to eat wild greens such as purslane on the certified organic property.
“Purslane has the highest Omega 3 properties of any vegetable,” Shephard noted. “We think we produce the best eggs you can possibly buy. Everyone who eats them comes back.”
Providing the highest quality food with a personal touch is the goal of the COC Farmer’s Market, according to manager Carina Crawford.
“Everything is super fresh and supports local growers,” she said. “People don’t really realize how hard our farmers work.”
The Ventura County Certified Farmer’s Market has been in business for 26 years at College of the Canyons, while the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market is a relative newcomer at 4 years old. Old Town Newhall currently boasts 15 vendors, including tamales, churros, prepared Mediterranean foods, and more, with new additions coming soon.
“We’re adding an artisanal bread vendor. There’s nothing like it here in Santa Clarita,” said Larry McClements, market manager. “There’s also a certified organic heirloom vegetable vendor who will be offering microgreens.”
Both Farmers Markets only work with vendors who are located in California and produce what they sell. This is what provides the quality of taste and texture that McClements is so passionate about.
“People will come here, buy carrots, and be blown away because they haven’t had carrots that taste like carrots in years,” he said.
Carrots in a rainbow of colors are one of the more popular options at the Arreola Farm booth at the Old Town Newhall Market.
“Most people use them for juicing but my mom cuts them up for salads,” said young Juan Arreola, who sells at his family’s booth each Saturday. “Some are really sweet. People love the flavor.”
Coming up at the Arreola booth are summer squashes such as butternut, acorn, and spaghetti.
Meanwhile, at one of the produce booths at the COC Farmers Market, Joaquin Torreblanca said customers are currently enjoying sugar snap and English peas while awaiting the tomatoes and melons of summer.
Like many vendors, Torreblanca can offer cooking suggestions, but says keeping it simple is often the best approach.
“I recommend eating our produce raw. It tastes great and provides more nutrients that way,” he said.
Old Town Newhall Farmer’s Market
24500 Main Street, Newhall (in Newhall Library Parking Lot)
Saturdays from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm
Cash, credit cards, Cal Fresh, and WIC accepted
Ventura County Certified Farmer’s Market
College of the Canyons
26455 Rockwell Canyon, Parking Lot 5, Valencia
Sundays from 8:30 am to noon
Cash, credit cards, and SNAP/EBT accepted