National Farmers Market Week is an annual celebration that takes place across the United States to honor and promote the importance of farmers markets in local communities. This week-long event typically occurs in early to mid-August and is a time to recognize the vital role that farmers markets play in supporting local farmers, connecting consumers with fresh, locally-grown produce, and fostering community engagement.
In the heart of Davis, California, lies a vibrant and cherished institution that has stood the test of time—the Davis Farmers Market. As we celebrate National Farmers Market Week, we delve into the fascinating history of this local gem.
Definition of Farmers Markets
The USDA defines it as: “a multi-stall market at which farmer-producers sell agricultural products directly to the general public at a central or fixed location, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables (but also meat products, dairy products, and/or grains).”
History of Farmers Markets
Farmers markets date all the way back to Egypt over 5,000 years ago. Farmers along the Nile came together to sell their fresh produce.
The first farmers market in the United States opened in 1634 in Boston, Massachusetts. Many markets began following: Hartford in 1643, New York City by 1686, and Philadelphia in 1693, to name a few.
During the 1700s, 1800s, and the first half or so of the 1900s, grocery stores gained in popularity; consequently, interest in farmers markets fell. During the late 1970s, a peach harvest surplus inspired lawmakers to allow farmers markets in California.
The seeds of the Davis Farmers Market were sown in the late 1960s and early 1970s when five individuals—Martin Barnes, Jeff & Annie Main, Henry Esbenshade, and Ann Evans—found themselves united through friendship, political activism, and their studies at UC Davis. Under the mentorship of UC Davis rural sociologist Isao Fujimoto and his Alternatives in Agricultural Research Project, they developed a shared passion for sustainable agriculture and community-driven initiatives. In 1976, the trio of Henry Esbenshade, Martin Barnes, and Annie Main received approval from the Davis City Council to establish the Davis Farmers Market in Central Park.
Bolstered by the support of the Davis Food Co-op, which promised to buy any produce that farmers couldn’t sell, they embarked on a mission to connect local farmers directly with consumers.
Alongside the market’s growth, farmers and consumers began advocating for changes in State regulations that limited direct marketing of food. The efforts of individuals like Davis Farmers Market board member Les Portello contributed to the state Department of Food and Agriculture adopting regulations that created the nation’s first Certified Farmers’ Markets.
These new regulations enabled farmers to sell their products directly to consumers without strict size and packaging requirements, as long as they met minimum quality standards and operated in a market certified by the county agricultural commissioner.
This significant development further bolstered the Davis Farmers Market’s mission of supporting local farmers and promoting sustainable agriculture.
To this day, there are over 100 vendors at the Davis Farmers Market, where you can find fruits and vegetables, a variety of meats and seafood, nuts, wine, local eggs and honey, fresh-baked goods, plants, flowers and gifts. Today, the market serves between 7,000 and 10,000 people a week with more than 70 percent of the vendors coming from within a one-hour drive from farm to market.
The current schedule for the Davis Farmers Market:
Saturdays 8am-1pm, year-round, rain or shine!
Wednesdays 4-8pm for Picnic in the Park (mid-May through mid-September)
Wednesdays 3-6pm (mid-September through mid-May)
Today, along with their children, Annie and Jeff run Good Humus Produce, which can be found at the Market every Saturday.
Their eight and a half acre farm is made up of orchards, California native hedgerows, flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Beyond their produce they also make jams and jellies with their own fruits and herbs, floral arrangements and wreaths with their flowers, and they also make tons of dry fruit using the natural California sun.
You can find their products at the Davis Food Co-op & they also have their own Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook
Written by Ann Evans, this revised editon of the Davis Farmers Market Cookbook, which celebrates the Market’s 40th anniversary, focuses on the second generation of farmers and vendors. Ann Evans speaks of the importance of Farmers Markets, farmers, and the joys of cooking seasonally.
You can find this book available at the Co-op and online
As we commemorate National Farmers Market Week, let us recognize and celebrate the remarkable history of the Davis Farmers Market and the invaluable contributions it continues to make to the community.
Find more information about the Davis Farmers Market here
Foraging has been around since the existence of humankind. What began as a universal necessity later became an indicator of socioeconomic status, as those with fewer financial resources resorted to foraging to put food on the table.
The way we obtain food nowadays is very different. In industrialized countries like the United States, most people get their food from grocery stores or food delivery services.
Over the last decade, interest in foraging has grown as people seek new, nutritious, and flavorful ingredients, as sustainability advocates explore ways of breaking their dependence on industrial agriculture, and as Indigenous communities and other groups work to revive traditional practices.
• “To wander in search of food or provisions.”
• “To search for a particular food or foods, often in the wild.”
Foraging can be done during any season, but you will find different plants/herbs to harvest during the different seasons. It can be a rewarding practice and can be done almost anywhere, including urban areas. *
*Note that in urban areas, there could be a higher risk for pollutants and contaminants, so be cautious when foraging in those areas, ensuring that the items are well washed before consuming.
My favorite time to forage will always be during the summer. The weather makes it more enjoyable to be out in the elements looking for the plants and herbs.
I was able to get my first experience of true foraging a few years ago during the Kid’s Lakota Summer camps I participated in as a mentor, in South Dakota. Strawberries, blackberries, wild peas, sage, mint, chokecherries, and turnip (Thíŋpsiŋla in Lakota) were just some of the many abundant plants we were able to locate and harvest.
If you are new to foraging and want to explore it, here are some tips to help you get started below:
Learn to accurately identify your plants/herbs and wild mushrooms. Never rely on one single characteristic like bloom or leaf for identification. Use three or more points of ID. Consider color, leaf, bloom, stem, fruit, bark/branches, fragrance, location, life cycle of the plant, soil conditions, and/or spore print (for mushrooms).
Think about potential contaminants:
Don’t eat anything that may have been treated or from near sources of pollution. Try to find foods as far from human activity as possible when out and about in the countryside or the wilds. Washing foods can help reduce pollutants.
If you are allowed to forage, never take more than you need. Wherever possible, leave root systems in place, taking only small, sustainable amounts so the plants can continue to grow and wildlife can still have sufficient amounts for that season. Try to only forage from abundant wild food sources.
Tools to help Forage
- Gloves: These help with prickly plants like stinging nettle, rosebushes, and wild berry bushes. Gloves also prevent you from any allergic reaction in the chance you touch something poisonous or something you may not know you are allergic to.
- Clippers/Pruners: Having a hand tool like this one can help save a lot of time from hand picking certain items and can even allow you to collect things in bunches rather than one at a time.
- A Digging Trowel: A portable digging towel or shovel is also good to have if you’ll be harvesting mushrooms or plants from the ground, helping you loosen the roots of foraged finds.
- Basket(s)/Bag(s): Having a designated basket or bag to keep your harvested items in allows you to get more than what you would be able to collect if you didn’t have anything on you. Or it would save time from you going back and forth to your car or whatever way of transportation you took to get to that location.
- Plant Identification App: There are many apps out there nowadays that can help you identify plants if you are uncertain about them. While this can be a helpful tool, it should NOT be something you solely rely on due to possibilities of it being inaccurate. This is especially true when there are safe plants that look very similar to ones that are toxic/poisonous.
Finally, remember the golden rule of foraging: “Don’t eat what you don’t know.”
If you aren’t 100% sure that a food is safe to eat, leave it alone.
We were fortunate to have the chance to speak with Emma Torbert from Cloverleaf Farm to hear about the unique structure they have and the sustainable practices that they use. Emma got her masters in Horticulture from UCD and worked for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis for seven years. Cloverleaf is an 8-acre organic orchard and farm outside of Davis, California on the Collins Farm that specializes in peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs, berries, and vegetables. The Cloverleaf follows regenerative principles including no-till, rotational grazing, and cover-cropping. The farm is co-owned by Emma Torbert, Katie Fyhrie, Kaitlin Oki, Yurytzy Sanchez, Neil Singh, Tess Kremer, and Kyle Chambers; who all manage the farm together in a cooperative and consensus-based fashion. You can find The Cloverleaf Farm’s produce at the Sacramento Farmers Market on Sundays and at various grocery stores in Davis, Sacramento, and the Bay Area.
Cloverleaf seems to break the mold of what a traditional farm functions like. Traditionally farms are passed down generationally within families, but all of your farmers come from diverse backgrounds, how did that model get started at Cloverleaf?
“We started out a group of four women and then the farm passed through a number of different partners. As different people were leaving we were realizing that for the sake of future transitions and the longevity of the farm operation a worker-owned cooperative farm would be best, although we are currently still structured as a partnership. There are currently seven partners right now.”
“We’ve been working with the California Center for Co-op Development for the last four years trying to figure out a way that everybody can own equal equity in the farm. 2014 was the first time that we started profit sharing and equity sharing. The equity sharing is not yet equal but that is what we are working with the CCCD on.”
“One of our core principles in our vision statement is working as a team. An important thing in thinking about farm management for us is recognizing everybody’s different skills and working together without an established hierarchical structure. We rotate who gets to be the crew leader every couple of weeks, so they are essentially the boss for those two weeks, which means everyone gets a chance to step into a leadership role.”
How do you limit your greenhouse emissions?
“In terms of limiting our carbon footprint, we do a number of things. In terms of the transportation of our food, we try to deliver as locally as possible. We purposefully choose markets that are closer and do not take our products further than the bay area. We are always making the decision to try to sell closer to home.”
“As for what happens in the field, all of our vegetables get grown no-till. Our orchards and all of our annual crops are no-till, which means that we don’t use a tractor very often at all. In doing that we use less fossil fuel. We’ve also put solar panels around the farm, and can’t wait until we can add more.”
“Something else that really contributes to greenhouse gas emissions is water use. We use moisture sensors so that we use as little water as possible. We tread that fine line of watering as little as possible without stunting the growth of the trees in our orchards.”
What are your pest management practices?
“We are an organic farm so we don’t spray any pesticides while the fruit is on the trees. We do use pheromone sprays, which disrupt the mating cycles of a lot of stone fruit pests. We put out raptor perches and owl boxes. The main pests that we have trouble with are ground squirrels and gophers.”
How do you try to limit your food waste?
We’ve been trying lots of different things for many years and I feel like this year it’s all coming together, we have very little food waste coming from our farm right now. Our compost pile is pretty tiny right now considering the size of our farm.
“We have an Ugly Fruit club, which allows people to buy our third-grade fruit at a discounted price. We also create a lot of value-added products like jams and dried fruit, which allows us to still sell our less aesthetic fruit instead of wasting it.”
“Something else that we do is donate to the food bank, especially this year when we’re worried about our community being food insecure.”
Summer is the season for tomatoes!
Here at the Co-op we love the many delicious varieties of tomatoes that are available in the summer. Tomatoes offer a juicy, fresh flavor and are a healthy meal addition to everything from potluck pasta salad to a classic sandwich.
Let us take some time to appreciate the tomato and all it has to offer.
Tomatoes are good sources of several vitamins and minerals
Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen in the body and plays an important role in immunity by acting as an antioxidant in the body. One medium-sized tomato can provide about 28% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
Tomatoes contain many phytochemicals
Don’t forget to stop by our Produce Department for your fresh, local tomato needs!
6 refreshing salad recipes that best incorporate flavors of season. Whether it’s for a summer BBQ or a weeknight family dinner, these salads are perfect for any occasion.
Spinach STRAWBERRY GOAT CHEESE SALAD
The perfect sweet and savory salad with tender spinach, juicy strawberries, crunchy pecans and a honey dijon dressing.
Find the recipe here.
Chicken Caprese Salad
Sweet and tangy balsamic reduction drizzled over fresh basil and tomato paired with creamy avocado, grilled chicken and mozzarella.
Find the recipe here.
Orzo Pasta Salad
Hearty and full of Mediterranean flavors with fresh cherry tomatoes, tangy artichoke hearts, and crisp bell pepper.
Find the recipe here.
Kale and Blood Orange Salad
Crisp red onion, juicy grapefruit, and tangy feta cheese makes for the perfect burst of citrus zest in each bite.
Find the recipe here.
Crisp apples and celery paired with juicy grapes in a sweet and creamy yogurt honey dressing.
Find the recipe here.
CRUNCHY BELL PEPPER SALAD
Made with sweet crunchy bell peppers, fresh herbs, and a tangy balsamic dressing – this salad is full of textures and fresh flavors.
Find the recipe here.