Enjoying the Fruits of our Land’s and Farmers’ Labor – Agriculture’s Magnificence

Farmers’ markets play a critical role in the regional food system, as they enable small farmers to regularly sell the fresh produce they grow to provide crucial income and also give the community direct access to a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The Saturday morning Aptos market at Cabrillo College, which is offered year-round, is the county’s oldest and biggest farmers’ market (70-plus vendors). Monterey Bay Certified Farmers Market (MBCFM) runs it and also operates three Monterey County markets. Because the market accepts EBT/SNAP (Electronic Benefit Transfer/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), people in need—who receive assistance through CalFresh benefits—are able to buy plenty of healthy items.

Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets (SCCFM), which has served the county since 1990 when it started with the downtown market, operates five markets: Felton (Tuesday), downtown Santa Cruz (Wednesday), Westside SC and Scotts Valley (Saturday) and Live Oak (Sunday). The downtown, Westside and Live Oak markets are year-round; the other two are seasonal. “SCCFM represents over 100 family farms, specialty food purveyors and artisans,” as posted on its website. All SCCFM markets accept EBT, WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and Senior Nutrition Coupons, and provide a “market match” where CalFresh/SNAP participants receive a dollar-for-dollar match for the benefits they redeem (matching tokens can only be used to purchase produce). Also, markets periodically offer “Double Matches” where these participants receive two tokens for every EBT token. By offering an incentive that makes fresh produce more accessible, they help shoppers stretch their food dollars while keeping their families healthy. In addition, SCCFM hosts events and educational campaigns that focus on agricultural education and food.

A seasonal bounty at the Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Markets

With our county’s abundance of produce, and the plethora of farmers’ markets, it’s easy for restaurants to make fantastic dishes. Venus Spirits’ restaurants in Santa Cruz and Aptos utilize local vegetables in items such as a crispy Brussels sprouts dish with date jalapeño cashew cream and black garlic sauce. Davenport Roadhouse and Santa Cruz’s Gabriella Café both utilize Brussels sprouts from Rodoni Farms for selections that feature an apple gastrique. Rodoni is run by third-generation farmers; other crops include artichokes and pumpkins. They have a seasonal pumpkin patch and corn maze on the coast near Davenport. At Charlie Hong Kong in Santa Cruz, you can find a signature vegetable medley on many menu selections with organic chard, broccoli and other vegetables from Central Coast farms including Lakeside Organic Gardens. “We use Lakeside because their soil is nutrient dense and the land in Watsonville has such beautiful dense nutrition,” says CHK owner Carolyn Rudolph. La Posta, in Santa Cruz’s Seabright neighborhood, gets their lettuce from Live Earth Farm. Plus, they “…shop at local farmers’ markets three times each week,” says owner Patrice Boyle. At Dream Inn’s Jack O’Neill Restaurant, they regularly feature fresh herbs and produce from many local farms. These include Watsonville-based Marquita Farms, where they source heirloom and specialty vegetables, greens, fruit, and herbs.

We are very fortunate to have a temperate climate, which helps our crops grow and thus helps our economy thrive. The area can experience dry summers, yet there is also a lot of fog moisture that helps plants survive. In the Central Coast, “unique climatic niches and soil types are ideal for year-round agriculture and the production of fruits, vegetables, and seed crops” (as published in the California Energy Commission’s 2018 Central Coast Region Report as part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment). Wine grapes have been a top crop in our region for more than a century. The local climate is well suited for the unpredictable pinot noir wine grape, a historically challenging varietal to grow. Some believe our fog-blanketed coastline helps grapes reach their mature flavors while simultaneously retaining their acidity. A few wineries that are known for outstanding pinot noir are Alfaro, Beauregard, and Sante Arcangeli.

The Root of the Matter

As the first industry and a cornerstone of the Santa Cruz County economy, our agriculture roots here are deep. With generations of families committed to the blossoms of farming, the certified organic movement was born here, an incredible collection of farmers’ markets and u-pick opportunities became available to the community, and astonishingly fresh, sumptuous dishes landed on local restaurant menus highlighting our county’s exquisite produce. Continue to learn more about the agricultural magnificence in Santa Cruz County.

History, Organic Roots, and Learning More

From the economic impact and cultural significance to being forerunners in the Certified Organic movement, Santa Cruz County offers a rich timeline of agricultural impact in the area and around the world. Learn more about the history, organic movement, and more.

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