11 September 2019

Morning at the Napa Farmers Market

by Carine Hines

Napa Valley Register

It’s 7 a.m. on a Saturday, and Robert and I are setting up our stand for the Napa Farmers Market. At this time of day, we enjoy the lovely coastal morning fog in Napa, which will soon be followed by sunny skies. Around us there is the bustle of each vendor preparing for the day.

There is always something exciting about setting up our stand for the farmers market. We wonder … how much will we sell today, which regulars will come, what will we eat for lunch (always an important decision)? Early on a foggy Saturday morning at the Napa Farmers Market, the possibilities are endless.

This is our and every other vendor’s weekly routine for most of the year, and in this milieu we have built a community. As I make a pyramid of melons, I can hear Jess from Bailey’s Best and Linda from Pasta Poetry exclaiming over all the beautiful produce brought by Esquivel Farms. While filling cherry tomato baskets, a late arrival creeps slowly up the ally to make a 12-point-turn into their spot, with the neighboring vendors moving umbrellas and poles to help them in.

When I’m setting up my price tags, Doug from Devoto Gardens brings me an apple to snack on and inevitably tells me a corny joke. These are the people we see every week, and they are our dear friends.

As 8 o’clock hits, the first customers start to trickle in. Some of our customers come every week and are happy to just buy their produce, say good morning, and enjoy their shopping quietly. Most of our customers come to catch up about the week, tell us how good their melon was, bring us a bottle of wine (a common in occurrence in Napa for some reason!), or spend a minute to check in with each other.

I’ve exchanged tears of joy and tears of sadness with my customers. They have held my baby son while I had a line of customers waiting, and I’ve, in turn, made their kids into vegetable eaters. Food has built a community and network of friends that spans counties and is all nucleated at the market.

It’s after 1 p.m. and the market is over. We’ve weighed the produce we didn’t sell for our inventory, donated healthy vegetables to the homeless shelter, packed our van and are ready to go.

Henry and Loida from J & M Ibarra are sitting under their tent with everything packed up. Last year, they lost a van in an accident, so now they have to be dropped off at 5 a.m. before market, then wait until after 3 p.m. to be picked up. They tell me that they will sell at two other markets that weekend, then go to Hollister to harvest more veggies for Tuesday. These two farmers are some of the kindest, most hard-working people we know. Last winter was the first time they were able to take a vacation to see their family in the Philippines in three years. After a long day at the farmers market and a long week on the farm, it’s comforting to be with others who understand how exhausting, yet rewarding, it is to be a farmer.

The Napa Farmers Market built all these friendships. It bridges different communities and cultures, and all for the purpose of bringing fresh food and beautiful art to the people and visitors of Napa. The Napa Farmers Market is now looking for a new home, but I believe the community we built at this market has the resiliency and support to make an even brighter future for the market.

With this in mind, I want to share five ways you can help the Napa Farmers Market find a new home:

  • Keep shopping the market and supporting our small farmers, food producers and artisans.
  • Sign our petition of support at the Information Booth on your next market visit.
  • Write a letter to the editor of the Napa Valley Register.
  • Post on Facebook or tag @napafarmersmkt on Instagram and Twitter and #lettuceknow why you love us with the hashtag #lovenapafarmersmarket.
  • Write your local city and county officials and tell them why we deserve their attention.

Thank you again to our wonderful Napa Farmers Market community.

Today’s recipe is a creation of my own invention, and aside from the avocado, it’s something I can mostly get from my farm or from my neighbors at the market.

Mexican-style Succotash

3 tablespoons avocado oil

1 red onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 to 4 summer squash, sliced

2 sweet peppers, diced

1 poblano or other spicy pepper, finely diced

5 tomatoes, diced

Kernels from 4 ears of sweet corn

Ground cumin to taste

Salt

Juice of 1 lime

½ cup chopped cilantro

1 to 2 avocados, diced

In large pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until slightly translucent. Add the squash, sweet peppers, poblano and salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, corn and cumin, mix well and season with salt. Cook until the corn and tomatoes are soft, another 5 to10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice, cilantro and avocados. Mix gently and serve immediately with rice and beans or quesadillas.

Serves 4.

Kids activities at the Napa Farmers Market: Bring your youngsters to the market’s Education Station on Tuesday and Saturdays for Story Time at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. There might be coloring, matching games or other fun activities, too.

On the KVYN Music Stage: On Saturday, Sept. 7, Bruno Grossi will be performing. On Tuesday, Sept. 10, Oscar Reynolds will be our guest musician.

Carine Hines is an owner of Suntracker Farm, a vendor at the Napa Farmers Market and on the market’s board of directors. Located in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa, the farmers market is open Saturdays year-round and on Tuesdays, April through September, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, to sign up for the newsletter, visit napafarmersmarket.org