by David Layland

Napa Valley Register

I recently had reason to look back at my files from the 2015 Napa Farmers Market season, our last season on First Street in Napa’s Oxbow District. What a difference a few years and a location change have made.

Most notable was the overall growth of the market. In 2015, the market had a maximum of 75 vendor stalls available. In 2018, that number has grown to 105, a 40 percent increase. Parking has increased from fewer than 100 spaces to more than I can count.

Vendors, and in particular farmers, are the backbone of any farmers market. Thanks to the increased number of vendor stalls, we have been able to add more farmers and broaden the product selection.

We are fortunate to have farmers who have stayed with us as we moved locations over the years. I believe this is the 27th year at the market for Bera Ranch, and Big Ranch Farms and Morningsun Herb Farm are not far behind. Besides being dependable and having great products, these three farms have dedicated customers. People will travel far for Michelle Bera’s apricots, tomatoes from Mark and Teresa Haberger at Big Ranch Farms and perennial plants from Rose Loveall at Morningsun.

The market has always offered an excellent array of produce, but it wasn’t until the last few years that customers could also shop at the market for beef, pork, lamb, poultry and fish.

In addition to bringing produce grown in Rutherford, Laddie Hall of Long Meadow Ranch brings organic grass-fed beef and lamb to the market. Jamie Mickelson brings grass-fed, grain-finished beef from Sonoma Mountain Ranch. “Farmer Joy” Dolcini brings her grass-fed beef and pastured pork from Marin County, and Jessica Ascoop brings pasture-raised chickens from A4 Farms in Fulton.

The market’s egg selection has also grown. For those shoppers who want something a bit different, Farmer Joy and Sun Tracker Farm offer duck eggs in addition to chicken eggs. Long Meadow Ranch also has eggs, as does our newest farmer, Bee-Well Farms.

Mossy Oaks Farm had been selling eggs at the market for several years until recently deciding to exit the egg business. What started out as a loss for the market ended up as a win when Bee-Well Farms’ owners stepped in and purchased Mossy Oaks’ hens, moved them to their farm in Kenwood, and accepted the market’s invitation to sell eggs in the same spot previously occupied by Mossy Oaks. Bee-Well Farms lost its flock in the Nuns Fire last October so this transaction was a win for everyone.

Also new to the market this year are dates from Jewel Date Company and blueberries from both Triple Delight in Fresno and Serres Ranch in Laytonville. Shoppers benefited from perfect timing this year when Triple Delight’s season ended just as Serres’ harvest started. Another great addition to the market is G&S Farms with its sweet corn from Brentwood. After a two-year absence, Williamson Farms will be returning with avocados.

Market shoppers looking for artisan cheeses will find them at the Achadinha Cheese Company booth. This Petaluma producer brings cheeses from blends of cow’s and goat’s milk. Dacheva Son’s Cheese, also from Petaluma, produces cow’s milk cheeses.

We are still hoping to broaden our product selection. The market’s management would be happy to find farmers offering grains, fresh milk and goat meat to add to our lineup.

Napa Farmers Market Kids Activities: Bring your little ones to the Napa Farmers Market’s Education Station at 9:30 a.m. for Story Time. Story Time repeats at 10:30 a.m., followed by a Harvest of the Month activity featuring fresh peaches.

KVYN/KVON Music Stage at the Napa Farmers Market: James Patrick Regan of The Deadlies will be the featured artist on Saturday, July 7.

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

This salsa is one of my summertime favorites because it’s quick, easy and foolproof. You can add, delete or substitute based on what you have available. Serve it with burgers, sausages, shrimp or whatever you’re grilling on the Fourth of July.

1 cup dry black beans
2 to 3 ears of sweet corn, husked
1 medium red, orange or yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium red onion, diced
24 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, diced
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons hot sauce such as Tabasco
Juice of 2 limes
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Crumbled feta cheese to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the beans in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, adding more boiling water if necessary to keep them covered. Season with salt, let them cool in the liquid, then drain and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, add the corn and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer the cobs to ice water to chill quickly, then drain. Cut the kernels off the cobs. If you have a fire going in your charcoal grill you can grill the corn rather than boiling it. You can also grill and peel the bell peppers instead of using them raw.

Combine the black beans, corn and all remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently, then refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

Serves 4.

David Layland is the president of the board of the Napa Farmers Market.