Merced has a Saturday morning farmers market (18 & Nst) that has been going on in dowtnown for years.
It had been several years since I last went to market, and I just happened to be downtown getting coffee when I decided to stop by. Although the market is small, about 10 vendors, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few high quality and unique items available there.
The best vendor was Marchini farms, which is a well known local specialty grower that focuses on items like radicchio, basil, arugula, kale, and other seasonal produce including tomatoes in the summer.
It is absurdly ironic that some of the best seasonal produce in world is grown around Merced then shipped to the Bay Area, while locals can only find mediocre produce in Save Mart that may have come as far as Chile ....
The radicchio Marchini farms was selling were amazing, they had two different types of the chicory, the classic round head, and a slendor romaine shaped head called 'treviso'.
The quality and freshness of the radicchios and other produce they had was impressive.
The Marchini salesperson told me they come every Saturday until the middle of December when all of their winter crops are finished, and then they go on hiatus until May when the summer crops are ready, although the other vendors stay year round.
The other vendors had some excellent produce too, but Marchini was in a class of their own.
I was also impressed with a vendor that was selling some nice almonds and pistachios at good prices.
Finally, back to the radicchio, I decided to purchase the classic round radicchio and the treviso type; I also threw in some superb arugula they were selling.
I took these gems home, and made an incredible romaine/treviso/arugula salad with garlic croutons and creamy vinagarette dressing.
Needless to say, the salad was great, and I could taste a major difference between the fresh arugula and radicchio I purchased from Marchini farms compared to the tired looking radicchios and bagged arugula I've purchased from Raley's.
The downtown Merced farmer's market has great potential, and it would be nice to see more local specialty growers join Marchini farms to sell their produce there.
Along with the farmers market, I hope there are more options available in the future for local Merced residents to find the quality produce they live so close to.
I read an article in the Merced Sun Star about two weeks ago regarding a organic farmer in the Merced area that is trying to cater to locals, and it appeared his business was growing, I forgot their name.
I've also seen flyers for a seasonal organic produce service that will create a box of items every week to be picked up for a flat fee.