Quick Take:

Even as local growers and farmworkers face uncertainty after this winter’s storm siege, Santa Cruz County farmers markets are gearing up for the return of warmer weather with new vendors and expanded offerings from Aptos to Scotts Valley, Felton to the Westside to downtown.

This story was originally featured in this week’s Lily Belli on Food newsletter. Be first the first to hear about food and drink news in Santa Cruz County — sign up for Lily’s email newsletter here and text alerts here.

Monday was the first day of spring, following weeks of storms that have hit our local farmers and farmworkers hard. One way to support them is to visit our local farmers markets and buy their wares. The county’s two main farmers market organizations are planning an array of demos, pop-ups and other events for the coming months — and welcoming new products and vendors.

What can visitors to the market expect in the coming weeks and months?

At the Aptos market at Cabrillo College, expect to see some new faces. Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets Executive Director Catherine Barr said the market is working on bringing in several new vendors and products — including First Fruits Sweet Corn, Japanese hydroponic strawberries from Salinas, Rocky Oaks Goat Creamery and Carmel Valley’s Sweet Prairie Haskap, which specializes in products made from the haskap berry, a so-called superfood also known as edible honeysuckle and honeyberry. Barr is also working to bring in a mulberry farmer for the 2023 season.

Returning this year are farm-to-table cooking demos, which will be held every other Saturday from May to September. Details are still being finalized. In addition, the market will host gardening and florist demonstrations where attendees can make and take home their own arrangements.

New to the market this year is a gardening-book lending library in addition to the existing cookbook exchange library, which Barr said has been really successful. Visitors are welcome to bring cookbooks or gardening books they no longer want, and help themselves to a new one. An Art at the Market series is also in the works, and Barr is working with farmer Jerry Prevedelli to host a breakfast at the market in October.

Breakfasts are also back at the Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets, with two pop-up events planned in July and August featuring local chefs Andy Huynh of Full Steam Dumpling and Katherine Stern of The Midway, respectively. Tickets are selling quickly, said executive director Nesh Dhillon.

“There’s a lot in the works, much of it still being finalized,” he said of plans for the spring and summer market season. “We’re working on more diversification of different commodities, to make a more complete shopping experience.”

At the Westside Santa Cruz market on Saturdays, Dhillon and his team are arranging for several local chefs to do demonstrations and sell prepared food to go or eat on site, such as wood-fired sourdough pizza from Jayne Dough and prepared food products from Emily Beggs of Kin & Kitchen, whom Dhillon calls a “jack of all trades.”

“It’s a great way for people to get exposed to some of the names they may have heard of but [whose food] they haven’t tried,” he said.

Fruition Brewing is a fixture at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market.
Fruition Brewing is a fixture at the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

The first Wednesday of each month, the downtown market will host a trio of beverage vendors — featuring the beers, ciders and kombuchas of Fruition Brewing, Santa Cruz Cider Company and Living Swell, respectively — and several Foodshed Project events will be held at the Felton and Scotts Valley markets, which open in May.

Both Dhillon and Barr ask market patrons to be patient this year because some crops might be a little later than usual, including strawberries and asparagus.

“We’ve just come out of a very difficult farming environment — things are going to take a little while to get to market,” said Dhillon.

Also of note:

  • Home restaurant returns to the downtown and Live Oak markets with a variety of products including olives, sauces, homemade pastas and more.
  • The Scotts Valley market opens for the season on Saturday, May 6, with free strawberry shortcake and mini-scoops from the Penny Ice Creamery.
  • The Felton market opens Tuesday, May 1, with celebratory free strawberry shortcake.

Don’t miss Lily’s most recent update on future plans for the downtown Santa Cruz market.

Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...