‘A hardier bunch’: Santa Cruz County farmers markets soldier on amid deluge

A scene from the downtown Santa Cruz farmers market.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As wave after wave of storms took aim at the Central Coast, local farmers markets remained open for business.

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.

The Greek historian Herodotus’ words “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” are often said in association with the U.S. Postal Service, although these past few weeks the phrase could be used to describe another group: Santa Cruz County’s farmers markets. The weekly outdoor markets operate rain or shine, and many have taken a beating amid wave after wave of winter storms. Nevertheless, the vendors and farmers have gamely weathered the conditions and continued to welcome shoppers on their appointed days — even if that has meant shortening or adjusting hours to ensure safe travel between weather systems.

In the past two weeks, only the Watsonville farmers market on Friday, Jan. 13, was canceled, due to its proximity to the Pajaro River and the possibility of flooding. All other year-round markets, including the Saturday markets on the Westside and in Aptos, the Sunday market in Live Oak and the Wednesday market in downtown Santa Cruz have been held as scheduled. (Find everything you need to know about Santa Cruz County’s farmers markets in Lookout’s guide.)

It’s more important than ever for shoppers to support local farms, says Nesh Dhillon, executive director of Santa Cruz County Community Farmers’ Markets, even if that means donning rain gear. Many are facing hardships due to the intense rain, which has led to damaged infrastructure, difficulties harvesting and loss of income due to canceled markets throughout the larger Bay Area. At least one Watsonville farm, Happy Boy Farms, has flooded and will be unable to be farmed for many months.

Dhillon and Catherine Barr, director of Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets, which operates the Aptos farmers market, both say that while some markets experience a few day-of cancellations from vendors, for the most part the farmers are there and ready to sell. “The farmers are a hardier bunch, especially if they’ve harvested the day before,” says Dhillon.

The winter markets are smaller but can still satisfy most shoppers. This time of year, root vegetables like beets and carrots are sweeter, and kale, chard and other sturdy greens flourish, as do many varieties of lettuces. Classic and boutique varieties of citrus, including Meyer lemons, Cara Cara oranges and kumquats, are widely available, and avocados will return in the next few weeks. Don’t miss out on the season’s bounty — even if that means getting a little wet. Stay up to date on any changes to market schedules on Instagram via @santacruzfarmersmkts for Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets, @watsonvillefarmersmarket for Watsonville Farmers Market and @mbfarmersmarkets for Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Markets.