Chef Andy Huynh of Full Steam Dumpling caters a farmers market pop-up breakfast event in July.
Chef Andy Huynh of Full Steam Dumpling caters a farmers market pop-up breakfast event in July.
(Via Camilla Mann)
Food & Drink

Fundraising farmers market pop-ups wrap up a successful return season

Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets raised more than $10,000 for its community food programs this year as its pop-up breakfast series returned from a pandemic pause, with chefs Andy Huynh and Katherine Stern piloting sold-out events.

My family often gets breakfast at the Westside Santa Cruz farmers market on Saturday mornings, but one meal in mid-August looked a little different. While the rest of the farmers market hummed around us with its regular vendors and visitors, 150 guests — my husband and me among them — gathered around four long tables draped in white tablecloths, decorated with jars of flowers and shaded by umbrellas from a sun that had yet to peek through the cool marine layer.

We set our places with dishes and cutlery brought from home and introduced ourselves to our neighbors while hot coffee flowed into mismatched mugs. A duo playing folky string music walked among the tables, serenading guests while we waited for the first course.

It was the second of two pop-up breakfast events put on by Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets this summer. At each event, a local chef creates a five-course breakfast feast that prominently features produce and ingredients from local farms. Chef Katherine Stern of The Midway, a farmer-focused breakfast stall at the market, created the menu for the event I attended Aug. 12. Andy Huynh of Full Steam Dumpling cheffed a previous event July 29. Both sold out.

Although the season was short, it marked a successful return for the farm-focused event series after a three-year hiatus. Since 2012, Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets has held two to four events every summer at the Westside and Scotts Valley markets. Due to the pandemic, no events were held from 2020 to 2022.

The gatherings are more than just a fantastic meal — the series raises vital funds for the farmers markets’ education and outreach programs, including the Foodshed Project and nutrition incentive programs like Market Match, which provides funds for certain groups to shop at the market. The events also employ graduates from FoodWhat?!, a youth empowerment and food justice organization based in Watsonville. According to the market, nearly $10,000 was raised to fund these programs this year.

Soon after, the family-style feast began. Each course celebrated summer with the best of the season’s bounty from nearby farms. We eagerly dug our spoons into glass jelly jars filled with yogurt made with milk from Monterey County’s Schoch Dairy layered with nectarines, pluots, toasted almonds and honey. Next, a crisp gem salad with silky roasted eggplant, bright tomatoes and walnut dukkah. Then, a potato frittata, yellow from rich farm eggs, topped with large leaves of sweet alyssum. Between courses, winemaker Barry Jackson of Equinox winery poured his Champagne-style sparkling wine, which he makes less than a mile away.

The entree was a showstopper — sweet, fork-tender slices of pork shoulder from Fogline Farm topped with fresh figs and crispy sage leaves. It was served with creamy shelling beans from another local farm, tossed with roasted bell and padron peppers. Finally, tall slices of cornmeal cake with raspberry compote and peaches were served for a sweet finish.

“People were very happy, expressing their pleasure with the events. We are really satisfied with how it went,” said Nicole Zahm, the markets’ communication and programs manager. Next year, the series will return with two to four events. More information will be available in early 2024.

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