STORY BY CARLY HELTZEL, PHOTOS BY CARLY HELTZEL AND ARYA NASIKKAR
It can be hard to navigate the more than 80 diverse stands at the Mountain View farmers’ market — each stocked with an array of fresh produce and quality products — but it’s hard to go wrong.
Here are some booths to look out for at the Mountain View Transit Center every Sunday morning:
Among the first stands you’ll spot is Avila Farms, a Hollister-based family farm that sells seasonal and year-round vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots and beets.
Jeannette Avila, who works on the farm and at farmers markets, said that with their large family of eight all helping out, Avila Farms has expanded from the five-acre space her parents first bought in Watsonville to the 23-acre Hollister property they have operated on since 2002. Her parents first founded the farm after her mother moved to the U.S. from being a farmer in Mexico.
Smiling, Avila said she most enjoys interacting with customers at the farmers’ market.
“You see them more like friends and family, not just customers,” Avila said. “And they tell you how they made their produce or what meals they had with the vegetables, and it’s really nice to hear.”
Aside from food, the vibrant and full-bloomed bouquets of flowers at the family-run West Flowers Farm stand catch eyes further into the market.
While the choice between newly in-season sunflowers, soon-to-be-sold-out dahlias or full petaled rose-like ranunculus can be difficult, the TLC put into each one is clear.
“We love what we do and it shows in our flowers,” said Alma Calderon, daughter of West Flowers’ founders.
Her parents started the business over 30 years ago and have established relationships with their clients — going so far as to even trust their customers to pay for flowers at the next weekend’s farmers market.
The flowers are freshly cut every night at their nursery in Colma and arranged in bouquets by Calderon’s mother. She described her mother as having a great eye for flower arrangements, with each bouquet ending up “different in its own right.”
“The whole thing that we’re doing here, it works well because my mom and dad just care so much about the growing and the people that they sell to,” Calderon said. “That’s what makes it successful, us wanting to be here every weekend with all the clients.”
A typical farmers’ market day means Calderon and her family all wake up at 4:30 a.m. to load the truck with everything picked out the night before, carefully selected based on customer preferences. They arrive around 7 a.m. to set up the stand before opening at 8. Calderon said the rest of the day goes quickly, because she’s doing work she’s passionate about.
“We just love working together and love being here,” Calderon said. “And we love seeing the expression on people’s faces when they come in to buy things.”
One of the most unique vendors at the market is Rodin Ranch, a family-run Almond farm that sells raw, unpasteurized almonds, flavored almonds, dried fruits and a plethora of almond butters.
The Modesto-based farm’s most popular items include the butter toffee almonds, or the more imaginative chili lemon flavored almonds as well as the honey roasted almond butter.
Vendor Charlie added that his family has been selling at the Mountain View Farmers Market for over 17 years now.
“I like the customers, the vendors, the vibe, the families that come in with kids,” Charlie said. “Yeah, just everything.”
LIVE EARTH FARM
The 140-acre Watsonville-based Live Earth Farm has it all. The all-organic certified produce includes year-round vegetables and sold-out berries, stand worker Erin Harris said. She added that she “hands-down” likes their berries the best.
Harris, who used to work in the fields at Live Earth, said they rotate various crops on the 50 acres of farmable land so that nutrients are properly and naturally restored to the soil.
When asked about her favorite aspect of the farmers’ market, she said that the intra-vendor bartering system is always a fun way to get her morning yogurt, but she appreciates the overall “vibe” too.
“It’s a nice little community,” Harris said. “You get to meet a lot of people.”
In a small Fresno County town called Sanger, Ramos Farms was founded almost 7 years ago and has been selling fruits at the farmers market ever since.
Specializing in stone fruits and citrus, depending on the season, Ramos Farms has “any stone fruit you can think of,” according to vendor Hugo Ramos, but he said he is partial to the “funny looking” and baseball-sized yellow peach variety called “Sweet Dreams.”
Ramos said he most enjoys teaching people about the nuances of the stone fruit world and having the opportunity to interact with so many customers.
“I love talking to people,” Ramos said. “I like meeting them and seeing what’s new [and] what they should learn about, what color [the fruit] is, how it should ripen up, anything like that.”
Parting with a simple message, Ramos said he encourages everyone to eat more fruit, citing health benefits — and of course that delicious taste.
As vendor Omar Cisneros described it, Country Rhodes is a “one stop shop” for all your produce needs, growing everything from avocados and cucumbers to tomatoes and watermelons.
And although Cisneros said his personal favorites are the figs and grapes, he said that Phil Rhodes, the son of the farm’s founder and its current owner, is known as the “Tomato Man” and tomatoes are considered their specialty.
The family-owned farm was founded in 1945 by Phil Rhodes’ father in a small town in the San Joaquin Valley called Visalia.
Cisneros’ typical day at the Farmers’ Market mirrors that of most other vendors, he said, which largely includes running around the stand, getting everything organized, and serving their produce to as many people as possible.
At almost every stand, the vendors seemed to agree that interacting with customers and providing a vital service is a mutually fulfilling experience.
“My favorite part is coming out here and bringing fresh produce to people who would otherwise have to go to grocery stores and get everything pre-packaged,” Cisneros said. “Being able to bring fresh produce to people makes my day.”