Fresh off the 101: The farmers’ market trail

By Don Sonderling

Living in California, we are blessed to be surrounded by an agricultural breadbasket that nourishes the nation. The Central Coast offers a gateway to this abundance, with more than 30 farmers’ markets. These markets are a haven of fresh, crisp, and healthy produce, cheeses, baked goods, seafood, and other delectable treats. As you embark on a journey along the Central Coast farmers’ market trail, take a deep breath; the air is infused with the sweet scent of flowers and summer stone fruits, a tantalizing invitation to stock up on our locally-grown apricots, peaches, plums, and more. Imagine the burst of flavor as you sink your teeth into that first succulent peach or apricot of summer!

Here are a few farmers’ markets off Highway 101. Check out the markets along this stretch of about 200 miles for the one closest to you.

Thousand Oaks Certified Farmers’ Market

Thursdays, noon to 5 pm

Since 1991, the Conejo Valley has been the home to the Thousand Oaks Thursday Farmers’ Market. With close to 50 vendors, you will have a great selection of fruits and vegetables from various vendors and family farms. Additionally, there will be farm-fresh eggs, just-picked flowers, and hand-crafted Clos des Amis wines from South Mountain Winery.

You won’t want to miss stopping by Apricot Lane Farms (subject of the award-winning film, The Biggest Little Farm) and check out their offering of yummies. Hungry while shopping? Grab some kettle corn, freshly made tamales, or sweet and savory crepes. Before you leave, check out Wantz & Kneads bakery goods — but get there early as they sell out fast. You’ll find a bountiful selection of goods at the T.O. Farmers’ Market and also the friendliest people!

The Thousand Oaks Certified Farmers’ Market is located at the east end parking lot at The Oaks Shopping Center, on the corner of Wilbur Rd and Oaks Mall Dr, Thousand Oaks. For more, visit vccfm.org/thousand-oaks.

Camarillo Certified Farmers’ Market

Saturdays, 8 am to noon

Enjoy the slow pace and feel of Camarillo’s small-town USA charm in Old Town Camarillo. The main street is dotted with local mom-and-pop stores like American Pie Records, Old Town Café, and Blvd Brgr Co., among many others.

Be sure to make time to explore them after you get your fresh, locally-grown produce and assorted goodies at the Camarillo Certified Farmers’ Market. Along with farm fare, you will also discover vendors selling handmade jewelry, organic soaps, fresh flowers and plants, gluten-free snacks, one-of-a-kind crafts, and other knick-knacks. This is a fun place to meet and mingle with neighbors and locals while supporting local farmers, growers, and craftspeople.

Also, a bonus to eating good is doing good! Since its inception in 1991, the Camarillo Farmers’ Market vendors have donated 7 to 10 percent of their weekly proceeds to the Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice. Over $1,000,000 has been donated to this worthwhile cause since its inception.

The Camarillo Certified Farmers’ Market is located at 2220 Ventura Blvd, Camarillo. For more, visit camarillofarmersmarket.com.

Carpinteria Farmers’ Market

Thursdays, 2:30 to 6 pm

About a 15 to 20 minute drive from Santa Barbara or Ventura, this small but mighty Carpinteria Farmers’ Market is the place to be on a Thursday afternoon. You’ll find an assortment of fresh produce, flowers, honey, and sweet, yummy pies from Marcie’s Pies at Jimenez Family Farms. For mushroom lovers, delight your senses (visual and taste) with over 15 species of gourmet mushrooms from Mahealani Farms in Carpinteria.

While strolling this two-block market, take in a touch of local history. On the corner of Linden and Willbrandt Avenues you’ll find Lantern Tree Books, which in 1910 was the birthplace of California’s first branch library. Or, take a break and pop into an art gallery, have a pastry, or walk a few blocks to the beach while passing several small family restaurants like The Spot, a Santa Barbara County icon serving burgers and fries (and great onions rings, too) for over 
60 years.

The Carpinteria Farmers’ Market is located in Downtown Carpinteria at 800 Linden Ave, Carpinteria. For more, visit sbfarmersmarket.org.

Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market

Saturdays, 8 am to 1 pm (Cota Street), and Tuesdays, 3 to 6:30 pm (State St)

The Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market is one of the state’s oldest. Founded in 1979, it was one of the first 20 farmers’ markets in California. In 1983, the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market Association was established, overseeing six weekly Farmer’s Markets in the greater Santa Barbara area.

All farmers’ markets are NOT the same! Sure, they all offer an assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, local honey, and many other delicacies. Delicious, primarily organic, and CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) certified, you’ll eat better and feel better while having fun shopping at your local farmers’ market. And you are bound to find different things at various markets.

Take the Saturday Santa Barbara market, for example. Do you love fresh (and I mean fresh) out-of-the-water oysters and mussels? Santa Barbara Mariculture has been a pioneer in ocean aquaculture for about a quarter of a century. So, pick up mussels and oysters that have just been harvested from the ocean (a mile off the Santa Barbara shoreline). This is as natural, fresh, and delicious as you can get.

As you stroll, keep your eyes open for the freshest eggs — all types of eggs! Pasture-raised chicken, guinea, duck, and quail eggs are available in various natural colors. And beautiful gourmet mushrooms, nuts, nut butters, jams — and the list goes on. Watch out for Mt. Olive Organic Farm for organic fruits, vegetables, bakery items, and more. You can even book a farm tour here.

The Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market is located at 119 E. Cota St, Santa Barbara on Saturdays, and on lower State St, Santa Barbara on Tuesdays. For more, visit sbfarmersmarket.org.

Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market

Thursdays, 6 to 9 pm

Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo is THE happening place to be on Thursday evenings. Growing steadily since 1983, the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market is more than just a place to buy veggies, fruit, flowers, baked goods, arts and crafts, and enjoy entertainment. With five blocks and up to 100 vendors, it’s a street party and a community gathering place where you can eat, visit, shop, have fun, and get the best freshness from local farms.

Enjoy barbecue, Indian, and other foods as you walk and shop. Drop into downtown shops along the way. Feel the excitement and buzz, especially during these pleasant summer evenings. This is where locals shop and kick back; it’s where area chefs shop to bring the freshest ingredients to their kitchens.

As you stroll, you may be entertained by various talents, such as the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Symphony Orchestra, small rock bands, individual singers, jugglers, and other talented entertainers.

The bottom line, of course, is to shop fresh, eat fresh, and support your local farmers, such as egg goodness from MJ Family Farms, treats from Cowboy Cookie & Ice Cream, artisan breads from The Bread Bike Bakery, and so many other fresh choices. You’ll feel better (mentally and physically) when you do!

The Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market is located in downtown San Luis Obispo on Higuera Street. For more, visit downtownslo.com/farmers-market.

A local farmers’ market is near you, whether in Westlake Village, Oxnard, Ventura, Ojai, Solvang, Goleta, Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles, or other areas. Check the websites below to find the one closest to you!

Want even fresher produce? Pick your own at area farms! Find one at pickyourown.org/CA.htm.

Don Sonderling is a freelance writer covering California’s unique wine, food, and adventure lifestyle from Southern California up to Napa Valley and beyond. He may be reached at donsonderling@gmail.com.

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